Catherine gets behind the microscope with Breast Cancer Now

Newcastle North MP, Catherine McKinnell, joined the search for new life-saving breast cancer treatments at a research fair held recently in Parliament by the charity, Breast Cancer Now.

The research fair was an opportunity for Parliamentarians to meet the scientists behind the cutting-edge research which Breast Cancer Now hopes will ensure that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live, and live well.

Delving into the world of breast cancer research, MPs were able to use a smartphone microscope to examine tissue samples, observe how tumour biopsies are taken, and take chemical taste tests, which showed how genetics can influence how the body functions.

At the event were world-leading scientists from The Institute of Cancer Research, London; Bart’s Cancer Institute; Queen’s University Belfast; the University of Manchester; and the University of Edinburgh, who gave interactive demonstrations of how their innovative research – funded by Breast Cancer Now – aims to improve outcomes for breast cancer patients.

During the drop-in, Catherine also learned about the work of the landmark Breast Cancer Now Generations Study, which is following more than 113,000 women in the UK over 40 years, to help pinpoint the genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that contribute to a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Set up in 2004 to help understand the causes of breast cancer, the project has since resulted in several major discoveries, including the identification of more than 160 common genetic changes associated with the development of breast cancer, and recently that higher BMI at a younger age is associated with a lower premenopausal breast cancer risk.

The Newcastle North MP additionally spoke to researchers about the importance of the Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank – the UK’s largest unique collection of high-quality breast tissue, breast cells and blood samples from breast cancer patients.

Every year, around 55,000 women and around 350 men in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer, and sadly around 11,500 still lose their lives to the disease each year.

Catherine said:

‘It was fantastic to hear from the scientists first-hand about the diverse ways in which they are tackling breast cancer, and to know that pioneering research is taking place throughout the UK – including at Newcastle University – is incredibly heartening.

‘Having heard about the great strides made by Breast Cancer Now scientists, it is clear that their cutting-edge work will play a huge part in improving outcomes for those with breast cancer across the North East, and will hopefully help us prevent the disease taking more lives in the future.

‘I know that many of my constituents work really hard to raise funds for Breast Cancer Now, and this event really helped to demonstrate how vital that fundraising is.’

Dr Simon Vincent, Director of Research at Breast Cancer Now, said:

‘We were thrilled to welcome Catherine to meet with our world-leading scientists, and showcase the ground-breaking research that our supporters in Newcastle North are making possible.

‘Breast cancer is still taking lives on a heart-breaking scale, but thanks to research carried out by Breast Cancer Now scientists across the UK, we understand more about the disease – and how to treat it – than ever before.

‘It’s vital that we continue to fund innovative projects – like those demonstrated at the research fair – if we are to reach our goal, that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer lives, and lives well.”