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10,000 UK volunteers sought for Addenbrooke’s-led personalised breast cancer screening trial



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Ten thousand UK volunteers are being sought for an international trial led by Addenbrooke’s Hospital that will test a more personalised approach to breast cancer screening, which aims to detect the disease sooner.

The MyPeBs trial - which stands for ‘My personal breast screening’ - will assign them to either the standard NHS three-year screening programme, or a more personalised schedule based on their risk of breast cancer.

Prof Fiona Gilbert, honorary consultant radiologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and chair of radiology at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine. Picture: CUH (51433283)
Prof Fiona Gilbert, honorary consultant radiologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and chair of radiology at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine. Picture: CUH (51433283)

The study will be carried out across six countries, with 85,000 volunteers. Women aged between 50 and 70 who have never had breast cancer before can sign up on the MyPeBs website at http://www.mypebs.eu.

Saliva samples will be taken from volunteers for genetic testing.

Fiona Gilbert, professor of radiology at the University of Cambridge and honorary consultant at CUH, is leading the UK study.

She said: “This is an opportunity to take part in one of the largest studies so far into how we find early stage breast cancer.

“By taking a saliva sample and history from those selected on the trial, we can identify whether they are at higher or lower risk of developing breast cancer. Once we know this, we can tailor screening to their own personal needs."

Breast cancer is the most common and deadliest cancer in women, with 355,000 new cases diagnosed and 92,000 deaths each year in Europe.

However, it is most often curable if diagnosed early enough.

A woman having a mammogram at hospital (52801008)
A woman having a mammogram at hospital (52801008)

In the UK, the NHS invites women aged 50 to 70 to participate in a screening programme by having a mammogram every three years and it carries out 2.1 million screens a year in hospitals and mobile screening vans. Eighty per cent of breast cancers are diagnosed in women aged over 50.

But we know that breast cancer risk varies between individuals. Factors including genetics, hormones, family history and breast density put some women at higher risk than others.

The trial aims to establish whether personalised risk-based screening could be more efficient and safer than the current system and lead to fewer late-stage breast cancers, and fewer false positives or over-diagnoses.

Three NHS sites are currently involved in the news study - Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH), the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT).

Gareth Evans, professor in medical genetics and cancer epidemiology MFT, who leads the study in Manchester, said: “We all carry tiny genetic variations, called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and our unique combination of these can either raise or lower women’s risk of developing breast cancer, when combined with traditional risk factors like family and reproductive history, our health and lifestyle, and breast density."

About 20,000 have already signed up for the trial, which began in the summer, including 1,000 in the UK.

Eileen Hughes has signed up for the personalised breast cancer screening trial. Picture: CUH (52800995)
Eileen Hughes has signed up for the personalised breast cancer screening trial. Picture: CUH (52800995)

Among those who have already signed up is Eileen Hughes, who was assigned to the personalised arm of the study.

She was asked to fill in a questionnaire about her family history of cancer. She also gave a saliva sample, which was sent off for genetic testing in Paris, to check her DNA for cancer risk.

After several weeks, the trial team got back in touch to tell her she was at high risk and would therefore have breast screening every year, instead of every three years.

She said: "When I was told I was high risk, I was shocked at first but then reassured that I would get extra screening.

“It's like being in a safety net. Now I'll get screened more often and that means if there are any signs of cancer developing I can be treated sooner."

The UK based charity Independent Cancer Patients' Voice is a partner of the MyPeBS consortium which oversee the study.

Give yourself some TLC

Anyone who has noticed any abnormal changes to their breasts should contact their GP as soon as possible.

NHS England advises women to remember TLC:

  • Touch your breasts. Can you feel anything unusual?
  • Look for changes. Is there any change in shape or texture?
  • Check anything unusual with your doctor

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