One million lives saved: How our research milestones mean more moments for people with cancer – Cancer Research UK

Before Helen was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was looking at doing courses to become a personal trainer.  

“When I was diagnosed, I had to put that on the back burner. Once I’d recovered, I decided I needed to do something for myself, so I took the plunge and signed up for a course. It was an eight-week intensive one and I completed it, passed and, within less than a month, I got a job. Now I couldn’t be happier, and I think that it was the best thing for me. It was terrifying changing my career, but it’s working out and I am now qualified to train people who have had cancer treatment too.” 

1988 – Shaping tamoxifen treatment 

Tamoxifen has been called “the most important drug in the history of medical oncology”. Our funding helped doctors work out how to use it. 

Around 8 in every 10 breast cancers diagnosed in the UK are classified as ER-positive, which means that they are encouraged to grow by the hormone oestrogen, which circulates in the bloodstream. Tamoxifen turned that into their Achilles’ heel. It stops oestrogen from affecting cancer cells.  

Tamoxifen was discovered in 1966 and approved for use in the UK in 1972. But bringing drugs to market is a long and complicated process, and even after a drug is granted a licence, further ‘phase 4 clinical trials’ are needed to help to collect more information about a drug’s risks, benefits and how best to use it. 

In 1988, research we helped to fund was published that brought together and analysed all the individual clinical trials of tamoxifen, pinpointing its overall benefits for different age groups of women, and the best dosing schedules to give them. 

This landmark study helped pave the way for tamoxifen to become the powerhouse it is today. 

Nevo’s story

In 2012 Nevo, who is now 56, found a lump and was diagnosed with breast cancer.  

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