London – Kings College

OVERVIEW

The Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit, King’s College London, is located in Guy’s Hospital, part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, adjacent to King’s College London Academic Breast Unit. The unit opened in November 2007.

Researchers at the unit are investigating the molecular pathology and biology of invasive breast carcinoma of the overlapping “triple negative” and “basal-like” types and their precursor lesions. The unit aims to identify and validate novel therapy targets, prognostic factors and biomarkers for these poorly-understood forms of breast cancer.

OUR FOCUS

The Breakthrough Research Unit, King’s College London, aims to identify the biological mechanisms that cause and drive basal-like breast cancer based on a molecular pathological characterisation that will lead to the identification and validation of novel therapy targets, prognostic factors and biomarkers.

Breast cancers may be broadly classified into distinct subtypes by expression of combinations of oestrogen receptor (ER)-regulated genes, growth factor receptors and basal cytokeratins. A triple negative basal-like sub-type, negative for ER, progesterone receptor (PR) and HER2 but either EGFR or basal cytokeratins CK5/6 positive, has a high frequency of early systemic relapse and unlike ER-positive and HER2-positive tumours, currently has no specific targeted therapy. The aetiology and biology of the basal-like subtype of breast carcinoma is poorly understood and therefore, insights into its pathobiology are predicted to yield targets for therapy and prevention.

The basal-like sub-type is more common in young women and most frequent in women of African origin where it represents approximately 40% of breast cancer cases (c.f.10-15% of Caucasian women).

PROFESSOR ANDREW TUTT

Professor Andrew Tutt is the Director of the Breakthrough Research Unit at King’s College London, a Reader in Breast Oncology and Consultant Clinical Oncologist. He qualified in medicine from Bristol University in 1990. After postgraduate training in general medicine he trained in clinical oncology at the Royal Marsden Hospital before gaining a Research Training Fellowship from the Medical Research Council to work in Professor Ashworth’s laboratory at The Institute of Cancer Research. Here he worked on functions of the BRCA2 breast cancer predisposition gene and was awarded his PhD in 2002. He cares for women with breast cancer as an oncologist in the multidisciplinary Breast Unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and is an faculty member of Section of Research Oncology at King’s College London.

Professor Tutt has, in collaboration with Professor Ashworth, developed a translational clinical trial programme focusing on cancers associated with functional deficiencies in BRCA1 and BRCA2. Dr Tutt’s leadership of the ICEBERG proof of concept trials for PARP inhibitors in BRCA1/2 cancers have led to a reappraisal of BRCA1/BRCA2 testing as a therapy companion diagnostic. He is currently Chief Investigator for the UKCRN Triple Negative Trial and the proposed Breast International Group Neoadjuvant PARP inhibitor Trial (NEPTUNE).