NIHR | Manchester Biomedical Research Centre
Our Research: Cancer Prevention and Early Detection

Developing new imaging and molecular biomarkers

How can we optimise the effectiveness of chemopreventive agents to improve outcomes for patients?

Chemoprevention is the use of medication to lower the risk of cancer in the healthy population. There are only three approved cancer chemopreventive agents in the UK (tamoxifen, raloxifene and anastrozole), however they only reduce the risk of breast cancer and there are limitations in their effectiveness.

Lifestyle interventions have the potential to reduce the risk of several types of cancer, however, there is currently a lack of information to guide which individuals are most likely to benefit from a particular preventive approach.

Through our research we are:

  • Using existing risk prediction models to define individuals at increased risk of breast and endometrial cancers.
  • Identifying who responds best to existing chemopreventive agents and lifestyle approaches using serial imaging and biopsy protocols.
  • Discovering new preventive drugs and strategies through detailed analysis of the mechanisms of resistance to existing approaches.

Supporting the rapid translation of this research into clinical practice through our Rapid Translational Incubator.

Progress to date

  • Collection of samples to assess biomarkers of response and resistance to breast cancer prevention
  • Understanding lifestyle behaviours in high risk women taking chemoprevention
  • Results from our BC-APPS1 study show that anti-progestins are a promising new approach in breast cancer prevention
  • New Total Diet Replacement study has begun, examining the effects of weight loss on breast and endometrial tissue.

Future work

  • Biopsy study for women starting chemoprevention with tamoxifen or anastrozole define the molecular changes associated with response and resistance to treatment.
  • Repurposing the osteoporosis drug denosumab in women at increased risk of breast cancer due to BRCA1 mutation.
  • Exploring molecular mechanisms of breast regulation to define prevention strategies