Dr Charlotte Fribbens

Dr Fribbens was the first Le Cure fellow and has been funded from March 2015 to September 2017. She has worked on a number of projects, most successfully a trial (recently published as a lead editorial) demonstrating for the first time that results from liquid biopsies can provide the information to choose the best treatment for patients. This is being recommended for all future relevant clinical trials and is likely to change practise. Dr Fribbens has also worked on a trial investigating if the next generation of molecular diagnostics can offer more treatment options for patients with metastatic disease. One single biopsy, taken from each patient, will be tested for up to 50 genetic mutations. It will also investigate if the same information can be learned from a blood test as a liquid biopsy, possibly reducing the need for invasive biopsy procedures in the future.

Dr Mariana Leal: POETIC-2

From August 2016 Mariana will spend two years dedicated to POETIC-2under the leadership of Professor Mitch Dowsett. For a certain group of patients hormonal treatment is only given after surgery. POETIC-1 showed that by introducing hormonal treatment in the short time before surgery we can see whether the tumours in individual patients respond well or not to the hormonal treatment. POETIC-2 is looking into why some patients do not respond and how we can improve treatment for this group of patients.

A biopsy will be taken two weeks into hormonal treatment to see which are not responding well. A biomarker profile will be conducted so we can identify what additional drug might be matched to that biomarker and introduced to treatment. Currently, these additional drugs are only used if metastatic cancer develops after surgery. One of our aims is to discover if introducing them earlier in the treatment process can have better long-term benefits for patients and save more lives.

Dr Monee Shamsher & Dr Claire Swift: Can ctDNA help us identify who does need post-operative chemotherapy?

Dr Shamsher and Dr Swift will be part funded by Le Cure for three years until September 2019, working with Dr Nick Turner. Current practice is to treat breast cancer with surgery followed by chemotherapy “just in case” any cancer remains behind after surgery. Using around 500 patient samples collected from a Spanish trial in 2003, Dr Shamsher and Dr Swift will aim to identify ctDNA in samples taken after surgery but before chemotherapy, to investigate if there are differences in the samples for women whose breast cancer returned and in those in whom it did not. We will be finding out if the presence of ctDNA after surgery means it is more likely that the patient will relapse and therefore chemotherapy is necessary. Conversely, if no trace of ctDNA is identified after surgery these patients could potentially avoid chemotherapy and the toxicities involved. If successful this trial will change clinical practice.

Thank you so much for your continued support, together we will find more effective personalised treatments for patients with breast cancer sooner.