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Breast Cancer

Dr. Sam Aparacio - Breast Cancer Research
For more information, please contact

Rhea Siu
Associate Director, Major Gifts

More than 4,000 British Columbians will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. They will experience some of the best outcomes in the world. Many will be cured.

But cancer is relentless, and there are breast cancer subtypes that continue to evade treatment. Right now, we have a $20 million goal to break down women’s cancers, including rare and hard to treat breast cancers.

B-precise: Better Diagnosis And Improved Treatments

Over the past decade, under the leadership of Dr. Samuel Aparicio, BC Cancer has delivered world first discoveries in breast cancer that have transformed the way the disease is treated today. They are global leaders in producing landmark publications and are the most widely cited research group in the world on breast cancer.

The team discovered 10 unique sub-types of breast cancer, decoding the genomic structure of the most deadly of these, and proving that cancer has the ability to change over time and in response to treatments.

Dr. Sam Aparacio

"We will be able to personalize and refine treatments based on what individual patients need."

Dr. Sam Aparicio, BC Cancer

Now, they’ve launched B-PRECISE. Individuals facing breast cancer in B.C. can actively take part in B-PRECISE. The key focus is tackling unmet medical needs and bringing precision medicine to patients, in particular those with rare and hard to treat sub-types.

The Goals Of B-PRECISE Are:

  • to better understand how tumours evolve
  • to learn how to treat them most effectively
  • to learn how to prevent cancer from returning, and
  • to learn how to identify patients at high-risk who may require more intensive therapies.

B-PRECISE will answer the toughest questions plaguing breast cancer researchers and clinicians to find better solutions for patients.

Breast Cancer Statistics:

  • 5 to 10 per cent of cancer cases are hereditary
  • 12 per cent of women in the general population will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, however
  • 55-65 per cent of women who inherit a BRCA1 mutation and 45 per cent of women who inherit a BRCA2 mutation will develop the disease by the age of 70.
  • Mortality across the country has decreased about 44 per cent since 1987
    The five-year net survival rate is now 87 per cent.

Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too

This year, approximately 250 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Canada. Although rare, men need to be aware of symptoms. If you feel a lump consult with your trusted clinician.

Major Breast Cancer Breakthroughs at BC Cancer

  • Proved that a drug called CX-5461, originally developed for blood and lymph cancer, can be repurposed as a treatment for breast cancer. Clinical trials testing the effectiveness are underway.
  • Discovered a molecule that alters how cells translate genetic information into proteins, which may help researchers better understand and possibly manipulate specific mutations seen in breast cancer cells that are not seen in normal cells. Clinical trials are underway with compounds aimed at changes in the genomes of cancer cells that make tumours unstable and vulnerable to attack.
  • Dr. Connie Eaves has shown that aging is associated with dramatic shifts in the properties and behaviour of breast cells. As women age, their risk of developing breast cancer increases, so genetic changes that occur in all women as they get older may provide clues to the development of breast cancer.
  • Exciting discovery of a previously unknown difference between the cells present in the mammary gland that develops in normal men and women. Dr. Connie Eaves’ first studies of normal mammary tissue from men have revealed that one of the major cell types in female mammary glands is largely or completely missing in the male human mammary gland! So now there is lots to do to find out why this is and what it means to the kind of breast cancers that men generally develop

To learn more about how you can support BC Cancer’s world-leading breast cancer research, please contact Rhea Siu at 604.877.6157 or rhea.siu@bccancer.bc.ca.