Is this the best use of Campaign's money? Why not fund more research?
In 2006 we asked 56 of the world's leading breast cancer scientists about the biggest gaps preventing them from advancing their research. Overwhelmingly the answer was 'easy access to more and better quality tissue samples taken from women with cancer.' Because it will take research further, faster, money invested in a national Tissue Bank is the most effective and efficient use of our resources. Moreover, money invested in the Tissue Bank will also fund research carried out on the tissue.
Why are you the best charity to launch a national Tissue Bank?
While other charities fund or conduct research into all forms of cancer, Breast Cancer Campaign focuses solely on breast cancer. This means the research we fund is not competing for resources against other cancers. We are also, as an independent funder of research, uniquely placed to deliver this – we have no commitment to any institution, but are able to recruit those best able to deliver this work.
If it is so important and will make such a difference, why won't the Government give some money?
We have decided to launch a national Tissue Bank because there is an identified gap in this area that has not and is not being met by others, including the Government. If we don't act then this serious shortage of breast tissue will continue.
How have you assessed the risks of setting up something like this?
We've spent two years designing and developing the project. During that time we've undertaken a full 'risk and sensitivity' analysis, considering all the possible risks and then assessing the likelihood of their happening. We will continue to monitor risks ongoing.
Is tissue only available to scientists working in the UK and Ireland?
Currently – yes.
Access to resources stored in the Tissue Bank is being granted in stages, as we need to ensure that both our process and the quality of research are at the right level. During the first year of the project, tissue was only available for use on Campaign-funded research grants, until we were satisfied that proper processes and quality checks were in place.
The Bank has now entered its second phase, allowing any researcher working in the UK and Ireland to apply, with a view to opening the Bank to the international research community in the near future.
Can I donate breast tissue to the Tissue Bank?
If you are diagnosed and treated for breast cancer at one of the hospitals around the country involved with the Bank, you may well be able to donate breast tissue to the Breast Cancer Campaign Tissue Bank. If you are asked to donate, it will be made very clear that you are donating to the Breast Cancer Campaign Tissue Bank. If you are not treated at one of the designated Tissue Bank centres, then the answer, for now, is no, as we are currently only able to collect tissue from people in the areas with centres.
Where are the centres?
Initially the Tissue Bank will be across four centres; Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry (Queen Mary), the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine, the University of Dundee and the University of Nottingham.
I am worried about ethical issues surrounding consent and tissue donation. What can you say to re-assure me about these issues?
No tissue will go into the Bank without the full informed consent of the patient and in accordance with the law.
All materials will be collected according to agreed Standard Operating Procedures conforming to Human Tissue Authority guidelines and Good Laboratory Practice. We also have the approval of the National Research Ethics Service.
Although one of the unique features of the Bank is the information about the patient (the characteristics of their cancer, family history, any treatments and, over time, the effectiveness of those treatments and if the disease progresses or reoccurs), the information on the individual patient will remain anonymous.
How will you know what impact the Bank has had on breast cancer?
The Tissue Bank will speed up the pace of research, but it is still a long-term project, and the results of the research will be traceable, to demonstrate the impact of this investment.
How will you know if it has saved or improved lives?
We know that the availability of tissue is fundamental to research. Once the Tissue Bank is launched it will increase and improve breast cancer research. We will follow the projects that have used tissue from the Bank so that we are able to feed back the benefits this project has brought.
When will you review the Tissue Bank's progress/success?
We will be keeping the progress of the Bank under constant review and will officially audit the progress and the success of the Bank on an annual basis. A Tissue Bank Management Board including tissue banking experts, breast cancer experts and patients ensures the smooth management of the Bank.
How many people will this project help?
This will help the 48,000 people who are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK, as well as people all over the world who are diagnosed with breast cancer.
Is this the first of its kind?
Other tissue collections do exist, but not in this way, on this scale, or freely accessible to the very best science.
Why hasn't the Tissue Bank been done before?
While the need for this Tissue Bank has been recognised for some time and by other organisations, it is a major endeavour and there have previously been no attempts to address this need in this way before. This shows how important it is that Breast Cancer Campaign acts to fill this gap for the benefit of breast cancer research.
How do you know no one else is working on a similar bank right now?
Smaller banks do exist, but in scoping the project we have found nothing comparable to Campaign's Tissue Bank. Ours is designed to take research into breast cancer further, faster – not to duplicate work that's happening elsewhere.
What about the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI)? What will this do?
UKCMRI is a biomedical research centre due to open in 2015. It is being jointly developed by Cancer Research UK, The Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council (Government) and University College London, and will focus on all medical research.
What advances have come out of breast cancer research using tissues?
Breast tissue is a necessity for many breast cancer research projects. For example, breast cancer treatments available today will at some point have been tested on breast cancer cells/tissues. When we increase the availability of breast tissue to researchers this will improve and accelerate their work.
What is it going to cost?
It will cost £10 million to set up and operate the tissue bank over the next five years. Funding will cover all the Core and future Collaborating Centres, including costs of laboratories, IT systems, storage of tissue, nurses to liaise with patients, research technicians who will run the processes for dissemination of the tissue, and the Breast Cancer Campaign-funded research using the tissue.
How will you raise this money?
From a combination of sources: companies, trusts, and individual donors, both existing and new. We're hoping everyone will give as much as they can to this groundbreaking project.
I would like to donate to this. How can I get involved?
That's fantastic – thank you! There are many ways in which you can donate to the Breast Cancer Campaign Tissue Bank, including a one-off gift, monthly donations, in your will, or with shares.
Click here to make a donation.
What difference will my donation make?
Click here to find out more.
Do you have any funders at the moment?
We are delighted that Asda and Walk the Walk have shown their unwavering commitment to beating breast cancer and each donated £1 million towards this vital initiative. We desperately need to raise a further £8 million over the next five years to ensure we are able to provide researchers with the crucial platform to find a cure for breast cancer.
There seem to be a number of breast cancer charities. Why don't you all merge?
There are a number of charities and we each do something specific and important. Breast Cancer Campaign’s prime focus is research; we do not offer advice and support because we feel that other charities (such as Breast Cancer Care and Macmillan) do an excellent job and we refer all calls to them.
We fund innovative, world-class research into breast cancer alone - this separates us from those cancer charities which fund all types of cancer research. We will also fund research at any centre of excellence, anywhere in the UK and Ireland.
How do you decide which research to fund?
We receive several calls each week from laboratories, universities, individual researchers and heads of department – all looking for funding. All applicants fill in a detailed form, which then goes out to at least two (and sometimes as many as eight) recognised experts in the field for their review and comments.
A professional in the same field will know where to look for inconsistencies and flaws, and will also be able to judge whether the budget for the project is reasonable. It highlights project duplication, where a team has a poor track record or a line of research which others have proved to be of no value.
These comments are then reviewed by members of Campaign’s Scientific Advisory Board, who will recommend to the charity’s Board of Trustees which projects should receive funding. Only those projects of the highest quality will receive funding. This is known as Campaign’s peer review process.
How do we know that your research projects are not being duplicated elsewhere in the UK or even in other countries?
Our Scientific Advisory Board is made up of very experienced scientists, who are all experts in their fields and who are in touch with their colleagues in other countries. They are aware of what is happening in their field in other major centres. However, duplication of research is not always a bad thing - it can also be necessary to confirm that the first scientist got it right.
So much money goes into research. Is it really worth it?
Yes it is. The improvements in quality of life and survival we are seeing now are the result of research in the past. Forty years ago, around 52 percent of women in England and Wales diagnosed with breast cancer were alive five years later; the most recent figures show around 80 per cent.
However, even promising preliminary findings do not always yield positive results. We also have to eliminate the things that don't work as well. Sometimes some things work well in the laboratory, but not on the patient, and the only way we can find this out is through research.
Why do charities need to fund this research? Why doesn’t the Government pay for it?
While the Government does fund research into cancer itself, we believe that more research is needed if we are to beat breast cancer. Breast Cancer Campaign doesn’t receive funds from the Government to support breast cancer research we rely entirely on voluntary donations for this. The Government does support the overhead costs associated with charity research through the Charity Research Support Fund and we are working with others to ensure that this fund is maintained and that it receives sufficient funding.
What percentage of your income is received from the Government?
Campaign is fully independent and receives no financial support from the Government or other official bodies. We rely solely on voluntary donations from the public.
Would Breast Cancer Campaign fund medical research which involves the use of animals?
In common with most medical research charities, Campaign acknowledges that despite developments in areas such as cell culture and computer modelling there are occasions when potentially life-saving research still depends on the use of animals.
This is not an issue that we or any of our scientists take lightly. We are constantly striving to develop techniques that mean the use of fewer animals in research. All new medicines, no matter what they are, are required by law to be tested on animals.
As a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), Campaign endorses the AMRC position on the use of animals in medical research, and will not fund animal research unless it is essential and there is no alternative.
In addition, Campaign grant holders are asked to ensure that any new procedure they employ, which reduces the number of live animals needed for research or testing is communicated through the necessary media so that it becomes known to all who might make use of it.
Wherever possible our scientists aim to carry out their research on patients, on computers or on cells in a laboratory and many of the projects we fund are like this. But ultimately, if they are all working towards the common aim of cutting deaths from breast cancer, they need to explore every available avenue, which might one day lead to new drugs, treatments and cures.
What is the story behind the pink ribbon? Is it yours?
The pink ribbon, which is the international symbol for breast cancer awareness and Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, was introduced into the UK almost 20 years ago.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month aims to increase awareness of breast cancer so that women know what the symptoms are and seek help early enough, which increases their chance of survival. It also raises vital funds for breast cancer research. Over the years the initiative has become well established, however the need for awareness is still as important as ever.
The pink ribbon is not exclusive to Breast Cancer Campaign, and this is why sometimes it may seem that the ribbons are everywhere. We try to limit our use of the pink ribbon symbol to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to ensure that it has more of an impact. Our logo is the pink jigsaw piece, which symbolises the missing pieces of the puzzle that is the cure for breast cancer.
Do you do anything other than fund research?
Yes- we aim to raise awareness of breast cancer issues with policy makers across the UK and Ireland, through our public affairs and campaigning activities. We also have an educational role. Together with other charities, we try to raise awareness among women, their families and primary care teams. This goes towards making those women who do have breast cancer seek advice early and quickly, and have access to the best treatment.
Our newsletter, focus, addresses different topics such as a literature review where we highlight some of the advances in research. Very often some of this information does not get reported by the consumer press and therefore we ensure that this gap is filled and that our supporters get this news and information.
I have received a charity collection bag through my door, stating that clothes/items donated will raise money for a breast cancer charity based overseas. What should I do?
Breast Cancer Campaign is in partnership with BCR Global Textiles to support the charity through door to door textile collections. BCR will donate £40 to Campaign for every tonne of textiles collected. To ensure the legitimacy of an organisation fundraising in this way, check that a UK registered charity number is featured on the collection bag or accompanying literature, and contact them directly for more information. If in doubt, it may be best to donate unwanted items to your local, registered charity shop.
How much of my donation actually goes to fund research?
For every pound you donate, 63 pence directly funds breast cancer research. The remaining 37 pence is spent on raising more money, raising awareness and the support costs of running the research grants programme.
I want to organise an event to raise funds for Breast Cancer Campaign. How can I do this? How can you help?
Whatever fundraising event you have in mind, we are here to help and support you every step of the way, and will always be available to help with any questions you may have. We have a number of fantastic fundraising packs which are full of great ideas and include all the information you need to start planning a successful event.
Order a fundraising pack:
Individuals: Call 020 7749 4114 or email
Schools Call 020 7749 4114 or email
Colleges: Call 020 7749 4114 or email
University RAGs: Call 020 7749 4104 or email
Clubs, groups and associations: Call 020 7749 4114 or email
Companies: Call 020 7749 4129 or email
I want to take part in one of your events – what's on offer?
From walking to running to jumping out of planes, there’s no end to the ways in which you can raise money to fund breast cancer research. Find out how you can help.
How can I pay in my donations or sponsorship money?
It's quick and easy to donate online. Alternatively, find out about the many other ways to donate.