Breast cancer research pioneers have been honoured with blue plaques

Breast cancer research pioneers have been honoured with blue plaques thumbnail

A team of 41 ground-breaking scientists have been commemorated with two blue plaques in London.

In 1995, the group discovered the BRCA2 breast cancer gene.

The gene’s identification revolutionised the world of cancer research, allowing for new genetic testing in breast, ovarian and prostate cancer which has already saved thousands of lives.

Plaques have now been installed at two sites of The Institute of Cancer Research in the capital, in Chelsea and Sutton to mark the legacy of the breakthrough.

QR codes next to the plaques will allow passers-by to donate to further research at the Institute.

Professor Andrew Tutt, who specialises in breast oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, said: ‘We’re delighted to have the scientists who achieved such a remarkable discovery here in 1995 honoured in this way.

‘The discovery of BRCA2 was an incredibly important moment, and its impact continue to be felt decades later.

‘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 ICR 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.

‘In recognition of the achievements of this incredible team, we hope that many passers-by will donate using the QR code to help scientists at the ICR continue to make more discoveries like this that defeat cancer.’

The plaques are being installed amidst research revealing that 61% of UK adults believed that all scientific breakthroughs are the result of one or two geniuses – rather than, as is more often the case, a large team of hard-working and exceptional individuals.

Professor Sir Mike Stratton, director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute and former lead researcher in the BRCA2 discovery team at The Institute of Cancer Research, said the plaque was ‘fantastic’.

He added: ‘The discovery would not have been possible without the extraordinary commitment and endless support of the families with high rates of breast cancer who participated in the project.

‘Back in 1995, we sequenced the DNA of people with and without cancer from many such families and so identified the mutations which led us to discover BRCA2.

‘As our team is today honoured with this fantastic plaque, we must too honour and acknowledge the families with breast cancer who played such a critical role in scientific history.’

The new plaque follows a study commissioned by abcam which finds that more than 6 in 10 UK adults think that all scientific breakthroughs happen as a result of one or two geniuses, rather than a team


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