What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the abnormal growth of cells that normally make up the ducts and lobules of the breast. It is the most common cancer in females and the second most common cancer in Australia, with an estimated 20,000 people diagnosed in 2021. The survival rates for breast cancer patients have improved significantly over the past 30 years, however it is still the second leading cause of cancer death in Australia.

What causes breast cancer?

While there is no specific cause of breast cancer, there are many factors associated with the risk of developing breast cancer.

  • Breast cancers are seen commonly in women over the age of 50, with the risk of developing breast cancer increasing with age.
  • 5-10% of breast cancer patients have a strong family history or known genetic mutation such as BRCA1 or BRCA2.
  • Lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption, unhealthy weight and smoking is also contribute to an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

What breast cancer research is being done at UQCCR?

At UQCCR, our breast cancer research focuses on the molecular and cellular basis of breast cancer development, improving the way we predict the risk of relapse, and finding better ways to treat this disease. Examples include:

  • Investigating new ways to understand and treat breast cancers that spread to the brain.
  • Using next generation sequencing to understand tumour development in familial breast cancer.
  • Studying ways to implement DNA testing for breast cancer patients as part of their standard care, to personalise their management plans.
  • Dissecting the molecular characteristics of special types of breast cancer, specifically Invasive Lobular Carcinoma and Metaplastic Breast Cancer.

Research groups

Molecular breast pathology (Lakhani Group)

Cancer genomics (Simpson Group)

Fast facts

  • On average 55 Australians are diagnosed with breast cancer every day.
  • One in seven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Five-year survival rates for breast cancer have improved from 76% to 92% since the 1990’s, yet it is still the second leading cause of cancer death in Australia.