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Meet the incredible team behind the breast cancer gene

Words by Abi Scaife

In light of World Cancer Day, which was on 4 February, we felt it was time to celebrate some of the minds behind the fight to beat cancer.

While cancer is by no means ‘beaten’, huge strides have been made in the last few decades that have enabled us to treat cancer and even develop vaccines, thanks to those new discoveries.

RCA2 gene discovery team.

One of the most prominent discoveries was that of the BRCA2 breast cancer gene. Discovered in 1995 by a team of 41 scientists, the BRCA2 gene has led to genetic testing in breast, ovarian and prostate cancer, which has saved thousands of lives over the years.

That’s why commemorative plaques are being installed to help celebrate the team behind the discovery. The plaques were installed by abcam, a global life science company, to pay homage to the incredible scientific breakthrough, and the minds behind it.

“The BRCA2 gene discovery has paved the way for a huge amount of progress within the field of cancer research,” said Alan Hirzel, CEO of abcam UK. “We hope that this spurs on a movement where teams of scientists are widely recognised and celebrated for their contribution to both science and society as a whole.”

Two plaques have been installed at The Institute of Cancer Research, at the two discovery sites in Chelsea and Sutton, in London. There is even a QR code so that people who see the plaques are able to donate to The Institute of Cancer Research, and fund the vital, lifesaving research they perform.

The plaques include all the names of the scientists that were involved in the discovery, as well as the inscription ‘progress happens together’, to remind us all that it is rarely one or two geniuses, but teams of people that change the world.

“The discovery of BRCA2 was an incredibly important moment, and its impact continues to be felt decades later,” said Professor Andrew Tutt, Professor of Breast Oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London.

“In the shorter term, it allowed families with a history of breast cancer to receive genetic testing and be assessed for future risk. But it also spurred decades of research at the Institute of Cancer Research into identifying cancer’s weaknesses which culminated in the development of PARP inhibitors – cutting-edge, targeted drugs for patients with cancers caused by faults in this gene.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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