Take any group of 19 Malaysians, and chances are that one of them will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. But which one?
At the moment, we do not have the means of giving each person a personal recommendation on what their risks are, and what screening might be appropriate, and so the advice is for everyone to attend mammography screening after the age of 50. However, this means that for those who have a higher risk, they might develop breast cancer before they are offered screening, and for others, they may attend a screening that doesn’t benefit them.
CRM is collaborating with leading scientists from all over the world to work on improving screening methods, so that lethal cancers are detected early, and people are spared from over-diagnosis of slowly progressing (non-lethal) cancers. To counter this, our research specifically maps out breast cancer risk among Asians.
Over the past 10 years through research conducted in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, University Malaya, and Subang Jaya Medical Centre, we’ve identified more than 100 genetic loci that are associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. However, for most of these genetic loci, we do not know precisely how much risk is associated with each genetic alteration.
We’re set to change this with the Collaborative Science Award from the Wellcome Trust, and are the first team in Malaysia to receive such an award from the world’s largest medical research charity. Starting in 2017, our team will be working in close collaboration with researchers at the University of Cambridge, University Malaya, Subang Jaya Medical Centre, National University of Singapore, and University of Nottingham (Malaysia campus) to determine how common these 100 genetic loci are in the Malaysian and Singaporean populations.
For Malaysian breast cancer patients and their families, this would result in an increased access to services and education on genetics, giving them the tools to make informed decisions about their health.