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AURORA: International molecular screening program for metastatic breast cancer
AURORA, a new international molecular screening programme for metastatic breast cancer, has been presented at the IMPAKT Breast Cancer Conference in Brussels, Belgium. The programme is the first of its kind and will involve approximately 1300 women and men from about 60 hospitals in 15 European countries. AURORA is being launched by the Breast International Group (BIG), a non-profit organisation for academic breast cancer research groups headquartered in Brussels and consisting of a network of 49 collaborative groups based in Europe, Canada, Latin America, Asia and Australasia.

While research into early breast cancer has greatly progressed in recent decades, improving and extending patients’ lives, there remains much less understanding of advanced or metastatic disease. This is in a context where metastasis is the leading cause of death among breast cancer patients. The AURORA programme will involve collection of metastatic and primary breast cancer tissue specimens for screening against a panel of more than 400 cancer-related genes for the first time on a large scale. Plasma and blood samples will also be collected. Samples not use immediately will be kept in storage in an independent bio-repository for future research.

Ultimately, BIG hopes to expand AURORA beyond Europe to include thousands more patients. A newly developed innovative bioinformatics platform will support collection of AURORA data. This process will be carried out in a way that facilitates sharing of data and collaboration with researchers in North America who are setting up other initiatives. BIG already works closely with the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the North American Breast Cancer Group (NABCG).

The ultimate aims of AURORA are to enable scientists and clinicians to understand both why breast cancer metastasises and why there are differences in response to standard treatment among patients. BIG is involved in running or developing 30 clinical trials at any one time. Thus, when appropriate and feasible, patients participating in AURORA will be offered the opportunity to participate in clinical trials testing new and promising drugs specific to the genetic characteristics of their individual tumours. AURORA would then benefit patients by leading to better, individualised treatments and finding cures for advanced or metastatic breast cancer.

Dr Martine Piccart-Gebhart, Chair of BIG and Director of the Medicine Department of the Institut Jules Bordet, sums up the driving force behind the development of AURORA: "It is almost unethical that we continue to treat women with metastatic breast cancer when we have so little knowledge of their disease. We now have powerful technologies for investigating the molecular landscape of tumours, and we have an obligation to women to establish AURORA as a large translational research effort that can hopefully lead to more effective treatments in the future".


Press release: Breast International Group (BIG)-aisbl; available at [accessed 7 May 2014] [accessed 7 May 2014][accessed 7 May 2014]
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