On the Agenda - New treatment for breast cancer

In a nutshell Scientists have discovered a potential new way to treat a common form of breast cancer that affects 9,000 UK women each year. A team of scientists from the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit at the University of Edinburgh are the first to identify the C35 gene's key role in causing the spread of HER2 positive breast cancer to other parts of the body.

Cancer breakthrough: gene identified
Cancer breakthrough: gene identified
Why is this important?

What makes the discovery potentially significant is that there are drugs in development that could kill cancer cells which rely on this gene. They do this by disabling a protein associated with the gene, which stops it from working. It is thought this type of drug would be a new treatment for HER2 positive breast cancer.

How big a problem is it?

HER2 positive breast cancer affects 800 women in Scotland and makes up about 20 per cent of all breast cancer cases. While it can be treated with the targeted treatment, Herceptin (trastuzumab), the drug does not work for all patients, and can stop working after a time.

PR strategy

The communications team at Breakthrough Breast Cancer led on PR for this story. The Scottish PR team contacted local press while the London team spoke to UK-wide healthcare media correspondents.

Media coverage

The Herald ran the story on the front page with the headline 'Breast cancer breakthrough', while STV, BBC Scotland News and BBC Radio Scotland also covered it. Articles appeared in The Daily Telegraph and Daily Express.

46k women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK

300 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK.

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