Call for 10,000 volunteers in the UK to take part in international breast cancer study

NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre is supporting the UK arm of a large international study, to test out a more personalised way to screen for breast cancer and detect it sooner.

The study involves 6 European countries and is looking to recruit 85,000 volunteers aged between 50 and 70 who have never had breast cancer before – 10,000 volunteers are needed from the UK.

So far 3 NHS sites are involved in the trial, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH), the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT).

Professor Fiona Gilbert, professor of radiology at University of Cambridge, honorary consultant at CUH and NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre Imaging theme lead (pictured right), is leading the UK study.

She hopes the ‘MyPeBS’ trial, short for my personal breast screening, will see monitoring improved for all. 

Professor Gilbert said: “This is an opportunity to take part in one of the largest studies so far into how we find early stage breast cancer. By taking a saliva sample and history from those selected on the trial, we can identify whether they are at higher or lower risk of developing breast cancer.  Once we know this, we can tailor screening to their own personal needs.”

Professor Fiona Gilbert - Imaging theme lead

With almost 355,000 new cases diagnosed and 92,000 deaths each year in Europe, breast cancer is the most common and deadliest cancer in women, but it is most often curable if diagnosed early enough. 

At the moment, all those aged 50 to 70 years are invited to participate in the NHS breast cancer screening programme by having a mammogram every three years.

However, not all are identical when it comes to breast cancer risk. Several factors including genetics, hormones, family history and breast density can put some at higher risk compared to others. 

The MyPeBS study randomly assigns trial volunteers to follow either the standard NHS screening schedule or a personalised screening schedule according to their risk of breast cancer. The trial lasts for 4 years for all recruits.

Gareth Evans, professor in medical genetics and cancer epidemiology at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) and cancer prevention and early detection theme lead for the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), leads the study in Manchester. He said: “We all carry tiny genetic variations, called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and our unique combination of these can either raise or lower women’s risk of developing breast cancer, when combined with traditional risk factors like family and reproductive history, our health and lifestyle, and breast density.

“With this international trial we want to test how we can safely personalise breast screening depending on women’s individual risk, with women at lower risk safely screened less often, while those at high risk more frequently.”

The trial hopes to establish whether personalised risk-based screening could be more efficient and safer than the current, standard screening programmes, with fewer late-stage breast cancers diagnosed alongside fewer false positives and over-diagnoses. Researchers led by David French, professor of health psychology at the University of Manchester, will also be studying how women respond to changes in screening and any psychological impact this has, to help inform future screening services.

So far around 20,000 have joined the trial which started in summer. Around 1,000 recruits have joined the UK trial so far.

Dr Nisha Sharma, director of breast screening at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and the principle trial investigator in Leeds said: “We are excited to be part of this large scale and innovative trial. We would encourage women to contact the website if interested in taking part.”

The Cambridge site will be supported by the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre.

Anyone interested in signing up can find information on the MyPeBs website

The UK based charity Independent Cancer Patients’ Voice is a partner of the MyPeBS consortium who oversee the study.

ITV News reported on the story in October.


Adapted from CUH press release

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