Last week, we welcomed patrons, friends and supporters of Prevent Breast Cancer to our Annual Research Evening for a night filled with inspirational talks by the scientists, researchers and specialists who have been carrying out ground-breaking research on behalf of our charity.

Hosted at The Chancellors Hotel in Fallowfield, guests caught up over drinks and canapes before the interviews commenced, hosted by broadcaster and long-standing charity patron Gordon Burns. The evening began with an interview with Professor Cliona Kirwan, head of PBC’s Scientific Advisory Board. She helps to decide which research projects the charity will fund, working alongside charity staff and trustees to allocate grants to successful applicants. As well as heading up the board, Cliona is a clinician scientist in surgical oncology and a consultant breast surgeon and we are all celebrating her recent professorship this year.

Breast Density Panel at Research Evening

Cliona was joined on stage by Dr Mike Sherratt, a lecturer in molecular biochemistry at University of Manchester, and Dr Andrew Gilmore, a senior lecturer in cancer sciences at the university. Along with Cliona, the three researchers are looking into breast density – although it’s known to be the second leading cause of breast cancer after age, little is known about why this is the case. Mike is part of a team working on a project, Molecular Basis of Breast Density, which aims to explore how it increases the risk, whilst Andrew received PBC funding to look into how high density can raise the risk of breast cancer through changes to DNA.

Next up was a panel with award-winning dietician Dr Michelle Harvie, author of The 2-Day Diet, and oncology consultant Dr Sacha Howell. For the past 19 years, Michelle has been exploring the best diet and exercise strategies for weight loss and the prevention of breast cancer. Her book, written in collaboration with Professor Tony Howell, was a best-seller, published around the world. Sacha specialises in the treatment of women with early and advanced breast cancer. The two discussed how the risk of breast cancer can be reduced in younger women through lifestyle and medical preventative measures.

Michelle Harvie and Sacha Howell at Research Evening

After a short break for drinks and dessert, Professor Gareth Evans was welcomed to the stage – he has just been announced as the UK and Europe’s leading expert in hereditary tumour conditions, and the second worldwide! He’s currently working on PROCAS 2, the second phase of a research project that is looking into the possibility of offering each woman an individual risk score of their chances of developing breast cancer at their first screening appointment, based on a number of lifestyle, health and genetic factors. He’s also focusing on SNPs-3, which looks into how certain fragments of genes increase or decrease the chances of developing the disease, and if women could potentially be tested for their SNPs at their first mammogram. Gareth also made sure to give a shout-out to Elke van Veen, a Prevent Breast Cancer researcher who recently won the prestigious Postgraduate Student of the Year Award by the University of Manchester for her genetic research.

Founder and chair of Prevent Breast Cancer, Lester Barr, tied up the Research Evening with some exciting news. He announced the plans to open an academy at Wythenshawe Hospital to train current medical professionals in breast imaging, as well as training completely new recruits in radiography, to fill the shortage of radiographers. At present, patients face long waits for important diagnostic tests, such as scans, which can cause potentially harmful delays in treatment. The lack of trained radiographers is affecting cancer care in the UK, as it means that in some patients it is being detected at a later stage, making it harder to treat. The academy will aim to increase the amount of skilled diagnostic staff who are able to carry out the potentially life-saving tests.

Gareth Evans at Research Evening

Lester also welcomed Prevent supporter and BreastFest organiser Margo Cornish to the stage to talk about the plans for the upcoming month-long event, especially the Afternoon Bee on 5th October, an afternoon tea with a difference! As well as a healthy tea developed by Dr Michelle Harvie, there will be unforgettable entertainment and a jaw-dropping finale, involving the inspirational BooBees – 100 women from the North West who have had their lives affected by breast cancer.

The evening was the perfect way to show supporters of the charity just how their donations are making a difference, and an insight into the incredible work that is being funded. We’d like to thank everyone who came along to the evening, and all of our amazing panellists – together, we’ll keep working towards creating a future free from breast cancer.

To watch any of these interviews please visit our Facebook page and view our videos. Keep an eye out for next year’s Research Evening in September 2020. Please also visit this page and donate to support these groundbreaking research projects.