While 2020 brought us many unexpected challenges, it also brought exciting developments! Initial results from the research you helped fund have identified new techniques that will improve investigations of bisphenols (chemicals found in plastics and certain consumer products). The research also identified crucial genes and cellular pathways within the breast that are altered by bisphenols, and which may promote breast cancer development.

We’re working hard to learn more about these developments. This vital work brings us closer to preventing more cases of breast cancer. So, rest assured, although the pandemic has brought challenges, our scientific progress continues to make a difference.

A positive start to the New Year

After the Christmas holidays, our PhD student, Kerri Palmer, and I returned to work to discover that we had a short letter accepted for publication in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology. In it we challenged the reliability of the method being used to determine the level of bisphenol A (BPA) exposure in humans. We believe that it underestimates just how much BPA – a potential health risk – is present in the environment.

Kerri’s first day back also coincided with the start of the Honours students (4th year undergraduates) projects, so she hit the ground running. The students, who will be supervised by Kerri, were assigned projects that aim to investigate the stability of bisphenol compounds. Kerri is using these chemicals in her animal-free research project, EDCs and Breast Density.

The most well-known bisphenol is BPA; an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) that is found in many common household items like plastic bottles, storage containers, can linings, and paper receipts. Previous research suggests that BPA may leach from these objects and be absorbed into the body where it mimics crucial hormones such as oestrogen and has a negative impact on health, including breast cancer risk. Kerri’s PhD focuses on investigating this in detail.

Springtime lockdown

Kerri, with help from her project students, hopes to identify optimum laboratory storage conditions for BPA, which will improve the accuracy of experiments involving these chemicals. Interestingly, this work appears relatively undocumented in the scientific literature so Kerri is very excited to see what results she can obtain in her final year, to fill this gap and expand current knowledge of how bisphenols may be accurately measured in the laboratory.

By March, we were suddenly faced with an unprecedented situation. All laboratories and research centres were closed and working from home became the norm, due to the pandemic. This was a step into the unknown for us all and it took a few weeks to get used to. Before the lockdown, Kerri was already working on some computer-based projects which meant she could continue working on these over the coming months, when access to the laboratory was restricted. This work would include identifying a number of crucial genes and cellular pathways within the breast that may be changed by BPA and may promote breast cancer development. These findings would go on to form the basis of Kerri’s first experiments once laboratories could reopen.

Summer’s ray of light

The July sunshine brought a ray of light as access to laboratories was regained, bringing with it just a hint of normality. Due to the high volume of research being undertaken in our research institute, numbers were strictly capped and shift working had to be implemented. In spite of this, Kerri managed to complete some initial experiments resulting from her computer-generated work. She also started work to create an animal-free 3D model of the breast, using human cells. This model was developed by a previous lab member and is just like a normal breast structure. Kerri will use this model and other techniques to identify changes to breast cells that occur upon BPA exposure. This will help us to understand how BPA affects the normal breast, and how it contributes to the promotion of breast cancer.

Autumn leaves more exciting news

Kerri’s work on bisphenol stability experiments continued and proved much more complex than originally anticipated. By the autumn, she was in the process of a long-term experiment to identify how certain storage conditions affect bisphenol concentrations, as this could affect experimental results. As mentioned, this section of work is very exciting as not much is currently known about this within the scientific community, so the data Kerri produces could be extremely significant and interesting to analyse.

Winter – the end of a challenging yet exciting year

It’s fair to say that 2020 threw many challenges Kerri’s way. She has done a great job adapting to them and is determined to work hard in the final year of her PhD. She hopes to produce some interesting findings and to contribute new knowledge to the wider scientific community about bisphenol A, its uses in the laboratory and exactly how it may be contributing to breast cancer development.

 

We’re now looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that 2021 will bring as we continue the vital scientific work your donations allow us to continue – all of which helps to prevent the preventable.

Professor Val Speirs

A link to Kerri’s published letter can be found here: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(20)30068-1/fulltext

This project is co-funded by Animal Free Research UK.


Related Articles

30 March 2021

Pesticide Action Week: Pesticides and breast cancer risk

To celebrate Pesticide Action Week, Dr Robin Mesnage, a Research Associate at Kings College and member of Breast Cancer UK's Scientific Review Panel investigates the links between pesticides and breast...

Read full story

1 February 2021

Meet the Scientists: Freya Leif

As part of our interview series, Meet the Scientists, we caught up with PhD student Freya Leif, who is at Leeds University working on a Breast Cancer UK funded research...

Read full story

14 December 2020

Celebrate a loved one

This year, I’m taking part in Breast Cancer UK’s 'Celebrate a Loved One' with a dedication to my sister, Wendy. "I'm immensely proud of my sister. In addition...

Read full story

9 December 2020

Breast Cancer UK’s Letter to Santa

Dear Santa  It’s been a tough year – for us, for everyone. We’re guessing, being Santa and all, that you’re pretty used to self-isolation seeing as you’re in hibernation most of the time.   For our charity though,  and...

Read full story

A donation of just £10 can help us reach out to new mums with educational information and guidance on how they can protect the future health of their children.

Donate £10

A donation of £25 can help provide a Breast Cancer Prevention kit to help our Ambassadors deliver talks, providing healthy lifestyle advice and practical tips that can help people reduce their risk of breast cancer.

Donate £25

Your donation of £100 can help train one of our PhD students, who work on vital research which aims to understand the causes of breast cancer and identify risk factors.

Donate £100

Just want to help in some way? donate an amount that feels right for you

Start Your Donation

Donate Now

Make a Donation

Share:

My One Time Donation

I want to make a one time donation of

Thank you. You’re just a few steps away from completing your donation.

+25% with Gift Aid

If you are a UK taxpayer, the value of your gift can be increased by 25% under the Gift Aid scheme at no extra cost to you.

This means that your donation of £100.00 could be worth an extra £25.00 to us, and it doesn't cost you a penny!

My Monthly Donation

I want to make a monthly donation

You’re just a few steps away from completing your donation.

+25% with Gift Aid

If you are a UK taxpayer, the value of your gift can be increased by 25% under the Gift Aid scheme at no extra cost to you.

This means that your donation of £100.00 could be worth an extra £25.00 to us, and it doesn't cost you a penny!

One Time Donation Monthly Donation
Make a donation with Gift Aid

Gift Aid is reclaimed by the Breast Cancer UK from the tax that I pay for the current tax year. If I pay less Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax than the amount of Gift Aid claimed on all my donations, it is my responsibility to pay any difference. Breast Cancer UK will reclaim 25p in tax back for every £1 I donate.

Your payment details

Your donation amount

Donation Allocation (Optional)

Additional Comments (Optional)

Stay in Touch

We’d love to keep you posted on how your support can make a difference to Breast Cancer UK and the exciting ways you can support us in the future.

Please tick if you’re happy to receive information from us by:

By completing an online donation, your data will be handled in accordance with the Breast Cancer UK’s privacy policy, and the privacy policy of our payment processing supplier BBMS (a Blackbaud company).

Thank You Wall

If you donate over £50, as a way of saying thank you for your donation, we would like to feature your donation on our virtual thank you wall on our website.

Donations will only feature on the wall for up to two months depending on the level of donations we receive.

You must fill out all required fields before paying.

Processing...

Need help making your donation?

If you need help to make a donation or have any questions about making one, please contact us…

Call 08456801322