UK breast cancer study calls for 10,000 volunteers

An international trial, led in the UK by Addenbrooke’s, will test a more personalised way to screen for breast cancer and detect it sooner.

Study lead, Fiona Gilbert, professor of radiology at the University of Cambridge and honorary consultant at CUH, hopes the 'MyPeBs' trial, short for my personal breast screening, will see monitoring improved for all.

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."

The study involves 6 European countries and is looking to recruit 85,000 volunteers aged between 50 and 70 who have never had breast cancer before – 10,000 volunteers are needed from the UK.

Volunteers who sign up are randomly assigned to either the standard NHS 3 year screening programme, or a personalised screening schedule according to their risk of breast cancer.

Eileen Hughes signed up to the international trial and was assigned to the personalised arm of the study. She was asked to fill in a questionnaire about her family history of cancer and 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, she was contacted by the trial team and told she was at high risk and would therefore have breast screening every year, instead of every three years. She said:

"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."

Our new Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital will bring together the clinical expertise at Addenbrooke’s Hospital with world-class scientists, accelerating the detection of the disease and leading the way in this sort of personalised, precision medicine.

Where to sign up:

Anyone interested in joining the trial can find information on the MyPeBs website

With almost 355,000 new cases diagnosed and 92,000 deaths each year in Europe, breast cancer is the most common and deadliest cancer in women, but it is most often curable if diagnosed early enough.

At the moment, all those aged 50 to 70 years are invited to participate in the NHS breast cancer screening programme by having a mammogram every three years.

However, not all are identical when it comes to breast cancer risk. Several factors including genetics, hormones, family history and breast density can put some at higher risk compared to others.

So far three NHS sites are involved in the trial, 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 at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) and leads the study in Manchester. He 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."

The trial hopes to establish whether personalised risk-based screening could be more efficient and safer than the current, standard screening programmes, with fewer late-stage breast cancers diagnosed alongside fewer false positives and over-diagnoses.

In total around 20,000 volunteers have joined the trial which started in summer. Around 1,000 have joined the UK trial so far.