Breast Cancer Breakthrough

23 April 2010, 13:11 | Updated: 24 April 2010, 08:35

Scientists in Oxford have been given £20,000 to help find new ways of treating breast cancer.

The grant will help fund a pilot research project which is looking at how breast cancer spreads throughout the body.

Dr Stephan Feller at the University of Oxford is going to investigate the molecule thought to kick start the breast cancer cell movement to other parts of the body.

If caught early, breast cancer can be treated relatively successfully, but once the cancer starts to spread and secondary tumours develop patients can often die.  It's this stage that Dr Feller and his team want to research more, and they want to develop drugs that will put a stop to secondary tumours forming.

He's been telling Heart the drugs may be taken in the same way diabetics take insulin, turning breast cancer into a chronic illness rather than a killer disease.

Dr Feller said: "For the majority of patients who unfortunately get diagnosed at a later stage, this type of drug may be just what they need in order to keep the disease stable."

"If you can stop tumours from spreading further that's almost as good as a cure. You might still live with your cancer but it may turn into more like a chronic disease, like diabetes where you may have to take insulin everyday. You may have to take this (drug) everyday but at least it will keep you alive."

According to Arelene Wilkie, Director of Research and Policy, Breast Cancer Campaign, 12,000 people in the UK die each year as a result of their breast cancer spreading. She told us: "This pilot grant could be the first step in finding urgently needed new treatments to stop this from happening and increase the chances if survivial of thousands of people."

As the research continues into secondary tumours, Dr Feller is hopeful their research will have a positive outcome.

"I think we are going to be able to develop tools over the next decade that are going to be able to help us treat a lot more people that we couldn't save before," he said.