Dr Rebekah Law: presenting the PIONEER study at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

22 January 2020

Dr Rebekah Law, a BRC-funded Clinical Research Fellow in the Breast Unit at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, discusses her experiences at the recent San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) where she was selected to present a poster of her research into lifestyle interventions to reduce breast cancer risk.

Dr Rebekah Law, presenting her poster on the PIONEER study at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Syposium (2019)

The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2019

In December, I was awarded funding from the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) to attend the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, one of the biggest breast cancer conferences globally attended by over 7,500 researchers, clinicians, healthcare professionals and patient representatives. My team and I were lucky enough to have an abstract accepted for a poster presentation, demonstrating our plan for the PIONEER study, a pilot study into lifestyle intervention and behaviour modification to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Reducing breast cancer risk

As a Clinical Research Fellow, I am currently taking time out of my surgical training to work on the PIONEER study, which will form the basis of my MD (Res) thesis. Working with Miss Jenny Rusby and Miss Katherine Krupa, my research aims to identify the best methods of supporting women to make lifestyle changes that could reduce their risk of breast cancer. We will recruit 240 women who do not have breast cancer and offer them different methods of support, including group coaching sessions and a dedicated goal-setting website, and will compare the effectiveness of these methods. The PIONEER study has support from The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity

A global stage for research

In addition to giving our study global standing, attending SABCS enabled me to learn more about the wider research community and make invaluable connections with key players in breast cancer prevention, with the hope that these contacts can be harnessed when we scale up our project.

The Symposium provides a platform for many different areas of clinical, translational and basic breast cancer research, and gave me an excellent opportunity to learn about non-surgical aspects of breast cancer treatment, as well as finding out about different surgical methods used around the world. I was also able to attend a number of sessions which focused on breast cancer screening and prevention, and hear leaders in the field discuss their latest research.

There was also a large cohort of patient representatives in attendance, and it was really interesting to hear their take on the studies presented and learn about the areas of research which they thought were most important.

There were a number of people who visited our poster and who were interested the work we’re doing in breast cancer prevention. I will endeavour to keep those people updated as we make progress, in the hope that we can create collaborative partnerships in the future.

San Antonio sightseeing

In addition to attending the Symposium, it was also great to experience the city of San Antonio. I really enjoyed tasting some local foods (anyone for vegan jackfruit tacos?), walking along the famous Riverwalk, visiting the art museum (with exhibits from Merton Abbey Mills, local to The Royal Marsden!), and of course a trip to a classic American Mall. I’m really grateful to the BRC for giving me this opportunity.

Our research: Breast Cancer

Identifying new approaches to predicting individual patient outcomes and discovering new targeted treatments for breast cancer