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Birchbox Visits Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s Research Centre

We are proud to be supporting Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign this month – the charity invited us down to their research centre in South Kensington to find out what a typical day at their lab looks like. Read on to find out how you can help!


The Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre opened in 1999 and now has ten teams, including 140 doctors and scientists – world leaders across key research areas – that are working together and aiming to save the lives of people affected by breast cancer. 50,000 women and 400 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK. It’s a subject that’s close to all of our hearts – it’s sad but likely that you know someone, or that you yourself, have been affected by this disease.

When we visited the research centre we were blown away by the advancements and efforts that scientists were investing into fighting it. Several scientists explained what their day-to-day work involves to us; from drug testing, to nitrogen tumour preservation, to cell life analysis.

The teams are all working hard to answer the big questions: 

  • What causes breast cancer, so we can ultimately prevent it?
  • Where does breast cancer come from, so we can detect it early?
  • How can we more precisely diagnose the disease, so patients receive the right treatment?
  • How can we find new, more effective treatments?

These are all pretty daunting questions, but what’s incredible is the work that has been done in the short time the centre has been around.


Having the best scientists under one roof is massively beneficial in sharing key findings and best practices – ten clinical trials have been the direct result of work at the Research Centre, all establishing potential new treatments and diagnostics to help save lives.

A new test developed at the Centre is currently being assessed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and could help low-risk patients with a low risk of their breast cancer returning safely avoid the aggressive side effects of chemotherapy following surgery. Drug development is a massive part of the on-going  research. They’re currently – very importantly – investigating a drug that can stop the cancer spreading from the breast to other parts of the body.

It takes a lot of work (and money) for a drug to be clinically approved and safe to use in the medical field.  It takes an average of 17 years and £1 billion to develop a drug from basic research to approvalFor every £1 Breakthrough spends on research at the centre, the scientists pull in 85p in additional funding from other sources.


What do funds raised for Breakthrough’s research pay for?

  • £500 raised pays for DNA to be purified from 250 women, to identify those at high risk of developing breast cancer.
  • £1000 raised pays for 1,200 flasks used to grow breast cancer cells, so they can be studied by researchers to develop new treatments and more precise ways to diagnose breast cancer.
  • £5000 raised would buy all the lab equipment for one scientist for three months.

We were both fascinated and pretty blown away with the dedication and advancements being made at the centre and left feeling optimistic and extremely fortunate to have such great minds working towards such an important goal.

How YOU can help us support Fashion Targets Breast Cancer:

  • Visit our e-shop throughout May – 30% of ALL sales will be donated to Fashion Targets Breast Cancer! We also have a pop up e-shop category curated by our friends at Fashion Targets Breast Cancer.

– Grace