Breast Cancer
In 2018, 2 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer. What’s scarier? The number of Asian women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the next 30 years will nearly double that of everyone else.

Because it is the most common cancer in women in almost every country, Malaysia included, we are doing everything in our power to protect Asian women from dying of breast cancer every step of the way.

Prevention

Today, it seems that there is little that can be done to effectively prevent breast cancer. However, we now know that women who consume high quantities of soy have a lower risk of getting breast cancer. Little is known beyond that fact, which is why we are leading the only Asian study to test if consuming soy later in adulthood can reduce some of the breast cancer risks.

Risks and Screening

Historically, mammograms are the most effective way to screen for breast cancer. Leading institutions recommend women get mammograms every 2 years if they are above the age of 50. But women with higher risk factors may need to start screening at a younger age or take a different approach entirely.

We are leading the largest study in Asians to help women understand what is their own risk to breast cancer, what type of screening is appropriate for them. Genetic counselling is playing a big part in catching cancer early on, and we are working to make genetic counselling accessible for low-income individuals who have family members affected by breast, ovarian, prostate, or pancreatic cancer.

Treatment

Today, there have been major advances in cancer treatment because of our understanding of what genetic changes cause cancers to happen (and which treatments can target these genetic changes and kill cancer cells). Such an understanding of genomics has played an important part in creating more effective therapies for breast cancer, but unfortunately, there is little done in genomics of Asian cancers. Our study on genomics of breast cancer in Asian women, the largest study of its kind, is being used as the basis to develop more effective treatment options. An exciting possibility that we’re looking into is harnessing the patient’s own immune system to target cancer cells.

Survival

In high-income countries, 9 out of 10 breast cancer patients survive 10 years. The national average in Malaysia for the same stats? 5 out of 10. The reason for this poor outcome lies in late detection and poor or delayed access to treatment, things that are potentially preventable. In partnership with the Ministry of Health, we are developing new ways of ensuring all women have access to treatment to improve instances of survival.

What’s next?

The Breast Cancer Research team aims to ensure that the advances in medical research include Asias in a number of ways:
  • Testing new ways to prevent breast cancer.
  • Making genetic testing for hereditary breast cancer affordable and accessible to improve the screening process.
  • Improving the treatment options for Asian breast cancer patients, through the creation of genomics maps of Asian breast cancers.
  • Exploring immunotherapy as a new treatment option.
  • Improving survival through a Patient Navigation Programme to remove barriers to treatment for low-income women.
  • Use the Lemon Kit to improve awareness of breast cancer signs and symptoms
You can be a part of making this happen. As a non-profit, our work is funded entirely by grants and donations from the public. Help us ensure that Asians are not left out in the global fight against breast cancer.

How we’ve made a difference

  1. Conducted research that showed 1 in 20 Malaysians develop breast cancer due to inheriting the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. This information is now incorporated into the clinical guidelines for Malaysian doctors, and plays an important role in the development of cancer genetic services in Malaysia.
  2. Led the largest Asian study to prove that 1 in 20 breast cancers are due to inherited alterations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. Knowing this, doctors are now able to recommend selected breast cancer patients to receive information about genetics and what it might mean for the patient and their family members.
  3. Leading the latest Asian study to explore how common variants of cancer may be used to identify 1 in 5 Malaysian women who benefit from earlier mammography screening.
  4. Contributed to the discovery of over 100 genetic markers implicated in increased risk to breast cancer. The Malaysian breast cancer genetics study has made a significant contribution as only one of a few studies focused on Asians, and we are applying more advanced techniques to ensure Asians are included in these studies.
  5. Contributed to the discovery of over 100 genetic markers implicated in increased risk to breast cancer. The Malaysian breast cancer genetics study has made a significant contribution as only one of a few studies focused on Asians, and we are applying more advanced techniques to ensure Asians are included in these studies.
  6. Established the first Patient Navigation Programme in Malaysia, demonstrating that this one-stop centre removes existing barriers to treatment for low-income women. We are now working with the Ministry of Health to expand this to other centres in Malaysia and to establish a national policy so that this can improve services all over the country.
  7. Launched Malaysia’s first breast cancer prevention study which examines whether soy can reduce the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women. The study is anticipated to be completed by 2020, and the outcome of this study could lead to a simple and affordable way to prevent the most common cancer in Malaysia.

What we’re doing now

  1. Collaborating with the University of Cambridge as well as doctors in Malaysia and Singapore to develop a risk calculator for breast cancer in Asian women. Funded by the Wellcome Trust until 2020, this tool could be used to inform people on their individual risk of breast cancer more accurately, ensuring that they get the screening that works best for them.
  2. Collaborating with the University of Cambridge to extend the genomic map from 600 tumours to 1,000 tumours by the end of 2020. Similar studies involving over 3,000 tumours among Caucasian women have shown that molecular ‘signatures’ of cancers can help uncover better ways to diagnose and treat the disease. However, such information is lacking in Asians. By raising the bar on the number of tumours analysed, we will be able to understand more about rare types of breast cancer, especially those where survival is poor. The aim of this study is to ensure advances in cancer treatment can be applied accurate to Asian women.
  3. Collaborating with the Patient Navigation team at Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah in Klang to expand our one-stop Patient Navigation centre to 3 other centres across Malaysia. These centres aim to offer practical solutions that ensure low-income patients are able to access life-saving information and treatment, improving their odds for survival. This project is vital is ensuring that all women get access to better treatments, no matter their financial situation.
  4. Our team is undertaking a study to find out if taking just one cup of soy a day can reduce a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. We are now actively recruiting patients for this trial. Find out more about [MiSo](link) if you are interested to be a part of this study.