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World Class Research

As our name suggests, Breast Cancer Research Centre-WA conducts research into breast cancer treatment and care. Our research informs and underpins the treatment we provide to our patients.

BCRC-WA was founded in 2009 with a vision to provide high quality care to breast cancer patients while conducting trials into the next generation of cancer drugs. This would ensure patients have access to the most advanced treatments. To read more about how clinical trials have positively impacted our patients directly, head to the Patient Impact Page.

Perth Breast Cancer Institute (PBCI) is the clinical arm of BCRC-WA and is made up of the specialists in surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology; as well as our breast nurses, clinical psychologists and genetic counsellor.

Investigator Initiated Research (IIR)

Specialists within PBCI design research projects and these frequently involve experts in other areas of medicine including pathology, psychology and biotechnology. The focus of these studies generally arise from the need to understand an aspect of breast cancer which is identified in the patients we treat and in which there is insufficient accurate information available at that time in the medical literature. Many of our past and current studies focus on areas such as social, emotional and other impacts of breast cancer outside of drug treatment specifically.

These “in-house” studies are termed Investigator Initiated Research, or IIR.  By designing and funding our own studies, we can focus directly on the needs of our own patients seen through the Perth Breast Cancer Institute.

Our current IIR research includes collaborations with Curtin University, pathologists and radiation oncologists among others and include areas such as:

  • Socioeconomic and psychological impact of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment on our patients
  • Review of data from our past and current patients with advanced breast cancer to identify characteristics which is associated with long-term cancer control and those who may be cured
  • Study of the development of children conceived during or following mother’s chemotherapy to confirm no significant effect.
  • Evaluation of cancer cells that adopt an aggressive characteristic (Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition) to identify future trials targeted at this feature
  • Review of what characteristics are associated with patients who develop a local recurrence (in the same breast or chest wall of breast cancer diagnosed previously)
  • A study to assess if patients who are obese at the time of breast cancer diagnosis are at greater risk of treatment side effects

Helen Sewell Tumour Bank

BCRC-WA is proud to fund and oversee the Helen Sewell Tumour Bank where breast cancer  tissue is consented by patients to be stored and used for future medical research.

Breast Clinical Trials Unit (BCTU)

BCTU, led by Professor Arlene Chan, is one of the busiest clinical trials units in Australia per number of staff and number of patients seen and runs more than 30 clinical trials concurrently. More than 1300 patients have been involved in over 110 trials since BCRC-WA was established. In 16 of the international trials that we were able to offer to our patients, the drug evaluated was shown to significantly improve breast cancer patients survival and have since become the best standard of care to treat breast cancer patients throughout the world.

A facility with a treatment base and trials unit of this size is unique in Australia; as we are able to offer a wide range of drug treatment trials to our patients, whilst also involving patients in our IIR trials in an effort to help improve the care given to all breast cancer patients. While early stage breast cancer is the chief focus of most researchers internationally, BCRC-WA directs more than half its research – 57% – into metastatic or advanced cancer.

Women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer have the odds stacked against them however, access to trial treatments is helping women defy the predicted life expectancy.

For many years, the average life expectancy for a patient with a metastatic diagnosis was around 2 to 3 years. Now we’re seeing 15% of our patients living beyond 5 years, and more than 5% are still going strong after 10 years.

By allowing patients to participate in clinical trials, they can gain access to treatments sometimes 10 years earlier than if they had to wait for the treatments to come onto the market.

To read more about the Breast Clinical Trials Unit and our current pharmaceutical trials, head to the Clinical Trials page.