Monday, 5 October 2009

Big steps, little steps

We all arrived at work on October 1 to find a pink item on our desks to be worn that day. This was to remind us that it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) and wish everyone luck with their activities during the month. The more successful our fund-raising the more research we can support and we will be able to take giant steps instead of little steps. (I am reminded of a game I used to play with my children when they were small which involved giant steps and little steps to get to the winning line).

OK – this is not the most sophisticated analogy and you don’t solve problems by throwing money at them but breast cancer is one problem which does need money wisely invested to take us a step closer to a solution. We have a brilliant Scientific Advisory Board and only the best research gets funded. In fact one of our research projects publishes its results today in the journal Oncogene. Research done by Dr Paul Edwards in Cambridge has identified a breast cancer ‘guard’ gene which will help us understand how normal breast cells become cancerous.

There are very interesting genes called “tumour suppressor genes” – they do what it says – suppress the action of a cell which is trying to become cancerous. If they fail then cancer develops. Dr Edwards has discovered a tumour suppressor gene called NRG1 which is damaged in over half of all breast cancers. As Arlene Wilkie, Director of Research and Policy at Breast Cancer Campaign said, “Knowing the identity of this gene will lead to far more detailed studies of how it works and how it is involved in breast cancer development. This research is a major step forward in understanding the genetics of cancer and could open up a host of new strategies to improve diagnosis and treatment.”

A giant step forward but only the first of many which need to be taken – so roll on BCAM and let us hope that we raise lots of money!

Read the BBC News story about the research done by Dr Edwards.

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