Raising awareness and understanding of breast cancer

Breast cancer is one of the most common malignant cancers amongst women in the UK, with one in eight women predicted to develop breast cancer at least once in their lifetime. In the UK alone, 55,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and approximately 7,400 additional women are annually diagnosed with a non-invasive form of breast cancer, which also has the potential to become metastatic and invasive. Breast cancer can also affect men in rare cases with approximately 370 men diagnosed each year. 

Although there are various diagnostic methods to detect breast cancer early – such as breast exam, ultrasound, mammography, and biopsy – there is a range of breast cancer risk factors that still need to be examined further. The causes of breast cancer remain complex, as the development of the disease can be influenced by various factors. This includes a family history of breast cancer which presents a greater chance for women who have had a mother, sister or daughter previously diagnosed with the disease to develop it too. 

We have compiled a selection of open access articles published within our portfolios that have a strong focus on the cellular and molecular pathophysiology which influence breast cancer progression. We will then be looking into methods for early detection using microRNAs (miRNAs) in addition to exploring DNA repair pathways and how immune check points can be used in immunotherapy as a new treatment.

We begin the collection with a Review Article on the effects of the Notch signalling pathway published in The Scientific World Journal, ‘The Notch Pathway in Breast Cancer Progression’. Notch, is an oncogene that has been detected in human breast cancer cells and found  to significantly influence cell proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis, playing a major role in the progression of breast cancer. The article discusses how the inhibition of Notch receptors and ligands can be used for therapy and treatment. 

The second article involves research into the proteins of a different pathway that could be relevant to the development of breast cancer, the Pentose Phosphate Pathway. ‘Expression of Pentose Phosphate Pathway-Related Proteins in Breast Cancer’, published in Disease Markers, explores whether the expression of pentose phosphate pathway-(PPP-)related proteins influences the progression of breast cancer. 

Secreted Frizzled-Related Protein 2 Is Associated with Disease Progression and Poor Prognosis in Breast Cancer’, published in Disease Markers, provides an insight into the effects of secreted frizzled-related protein 2 (sFRP2) as a potential biomarker for breast cancer, as high levels of the biomarker have been shown to predict a poor prognosis. High levels of sFRP2 were found to be associated with the size of the breast tumour, Tumour Node Metastasis (TNM) stage and lymph node metastases. 

A further Research Article titled ‘Identification of Cell-Free Circulating MicroRNAs for the Detection of Early Breast Cancer and Molecular Subtyping’, published in the Journal of Oncology, explores miRNAs as non-invasive biomarkers for the early detection of breast cancer. The study looked at the identification of subtype-specific molecular profiles of cell-free miRNAs in serum found in various molecular subtypes: luminal A, luminal B, luminal B, Her1 positive, Her2 positive, and triple-negative. 

The final article is a Review Article titled ‘DNA Repair Deficiency in Breast Cancer: Opportunities for Immunotherapy’ published in the Journal of Oncology, which explores treatments which focus on targeting immune cells compared to anticancer treatments targeting tumour cells only. The Review Article explicitly focuses on DNA repair pathways in breast cancer with a strong focus on the STimulator of INterferon Genes (STING) pathway which is an innate immune pathway in DNA repair deficiency. Additionally, there is further discussion regarding immune checkpoints that can be used in immunotherapy treatment. 

As one of the most common cancers worldwide, it is imperative to continue to raise awareness. Some risk factors, such as those related to an individual’s lifestyle, can easily be changed to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Moreover, self-administered breast exams should be performed regularly in order to catch breast cancer signs and symptoms early. Although a lot of diagnostic methods have improved the prognosis of breast cancer, further understanding of the pathophysiology is still desperately needed.


Jaspreet Nijjar is Publishing Editor at Hindawi. This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). The illustration is by Hindawi and is also CC-BY.