The Breakthrough Generations Study has 111,000 women voluntarily taking part in a longitudinal (long-term) study to research aspects, including genetic predisposition, which are risk factors in developing breast cancer. Not only is the sample size very large but of particular significance to the study, are the numbers of mothers, daughters and sisters, who not only share genes but also often have similar lifestyles and environments.
The study will provide an enormous amount of additional data which may well be significant in identifying many other aspects of women’s health and fertility. For example, already it seems likely that initial research may lead to a test capable of predicting a woman’s reproductive life-span which could facilitate informed family planning decisions … unfortunately, many older women find that they have left it too late before starting a family.
However, it seems that the Breakthrough Generations Study have had to discontinue a second round of blood sampling from participants because of financial constraints resulting from the ‘downturn in the economy’. This is an appalling lost opportunity because it is precisely the sort of research which is bound to produce unexpected spin-offs. Spin-offs which, in addition to advances in healthcare, might well lead to economic growth and job creation. Unfortunately, it is exactly the type of short-termism in research funding that was experienced under the Thatcher government. It is to be hoped that a Labour government would ensure that funding for such ‘blue-skies’ research was available, and in particular, funding for this study was re-instated.