BLOG: Why do we fund scientific research? | Breast Cancer UK

BLOG: Why do we fund scientific research?

Published 16 Feb 2016

Research strongly suggests that exposure to environmental pollutants, especially endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), increases breast cancer risk.

But which EDCs are most harmful, are they harmful just on their own or is it really the mixtures of these chemicals that are of most concern? At what levels and for how long must we be exposed before our risk increases?

The truth is; we don’t know conclusively the answers to any of these questions.  More research is needed to help us better understand the chemicals of concern and their biological mechanisms. Yet current research in this area is woefully underfunded – hence why we are calling on the powers that be to support better funding for research into causation and prevention.  However, we are also proud to practice what we preach and have increased our own level of financial support for independent scientific research that specifically investigates the links between breast cancer and exposure to environmental pollutants, including carcinogens and other hazardous chemicals such as EDCs.

This year, we are supporting three very exciting research projects, each of which examines a different EDC and its role in breast cancer risk.  One looks at the potential effects of glyphosate on breast cancer cells, another at the presence of UV filters in the breast and the last at the oestrogenicity of environmentally relevant concentrations of EDC mixtures.  

This week, our scientific officer and I went to visit scientists involved in one of the projects to see how it was progressing.  Dr. Michael Antoniou and Dr Robin Mesnage work at Guy’s Hospital, King’s College London, and are investigating the role of glyphosate and glyphosate formulations in breast cancer. Their research is important because although IARC has recently reclassified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen”, relatively little is known about the endocrine disrupting properties of glyphosate, or what impact it (and its formulations) may have on breast cancer cells.    

It was fascinating to discuss the emerging data with Dr Antoniou and his team and to get some insight into what further research this may lead to.  It was also gratifying to see the charity’s funds being put towards good quality research that will help to improve understanding of the way in which hormone disrupting chemicals can affect breast cancer risk.  However, it made me realise – just how much more could be achieved if this area of research was given a greater profile and came higher up the priority list of larger funding bodies who award research grants.

Afterall, glyphosate is just one chemical – we are exposed to many (possibly hundreds) potentially hormone disrupting chemicals on a daily basis – in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the sofas we sit on and in the cosmetics we put on our bodies.  More research is urgently needed to understand the additive and combination effects of these chemicals so that we can take action to effectively eliminate and substitute the chemicals of greatest concern. 

We are proud to be supporting projects in Universities such as Reading, Brunel, and King’s College, and hope with your help we can continue to fund more, so that together we can eventually help to persuade policy makers that better regulation of these chemicals is needed if we are to prevent future generations from succumbing to illness and diseases like breast cancer.  

Breast Cancer UK supports fully the EU’s 3R (replacement, reduction and refinement) policy regarding use of animals in research, and does not fund research which involves animal experimentation. For further details of all our funding criteria please click here.

The next deadline for grant applications is Friday February 26th.

We hope that those of our supporters who work in this area of research will consider sending us an application.

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