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Innovative EU research targets breast cancer

With our attention focused on the global pandemic over the past 2 years, it’s been easy to overlook the fact that other health crises continue in the background. Surgeries have gone unperformed, treatments discontinued, and diagnoses not made. In the wake of the pandemic, exhausted medics will face a backlog of cases made worse by this delay. There is no doubt that among these patients there will be many cases of breast cancer, the focus of our special feature.

“When someone has cancer, the whole family and everyone who loves them does, too.” – country singer Terri Clark, whose mother died of the disease.

Every year, more than 350 000 women in the EU are diagnosed with breast cancer, and 90 000 die from the disease. No surprise then, that cancer is one of five mission areas identified by the EU as a major societal challenge to be addressed through the Horizon Europe framework programme. Already, mortality from breast cancer is in decline, thanks to effective treatments and tools for the early detection of tumours. ‘A cure for cancer’ is still a favoured shorthand for a medical miracle, but beating cancer means much more than better treatments. Firstly, we must develop more accurate assessments of patient risk, as the FBC predisposition and BRIDGES projects aim to do. Identifying those who are not at risk is as important as knowing who is; better precision in this space will cut overtreatment and reduce the incidence of unnecessary, life-changing surgery. More importantly, it will better allow women to make informed choices about their bodies and their health. We are also making strides in our understanding of breast cancer, which is not a single disease but a cluster of related cancers. Researchers for the B-CAST and CLONCELLBREAST projects have investigated the genomics of breast cancer, bringing these differences into focus so that tumours can be better characterised and categorised. The PredAlgoBC project puts such knowledge into action by connecting cancer types to the most effective treatments available for them. And the BOUNCE project focuses on the often-overlooked aspect of patient resilience, investigating which factors can be bolstered to support those living with breast cancer. Through its continued support for research in this area, the EU aims to prevent cancer where possible, and offer earlier diagnosis, better treatment, and a higher quality of life where it is not. In doing so, it hopes to save more than 3 million lives by 2030. It’s not a cure for cancer, but it’s something to be proud of. We look forward to receiving your feedback. You can send questions or suggestions to

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