Professor John Robertson in the laboratory at The University of Nottingham

Detecting breast cancer early 


You can save lives by helping us to develop the world’s first blood test to detect breast cancer

The best way to help a woman beat breast cancer is to diagnose the disease early – or better, to help prevent it from developing in the first place.

Yet current screening programmes rely on mammograms, usually given to women aged 47-70 years. Even if a patient is diagnosed at stage 1 of the disease (where 90% survive over 10 years), she will still need substantial treatment.

By identifying the antibodies produced in response to the first cancer cells, Professor John Robertson and team at our centre in Derby aim to develop the world’s first blood test to detect early breast cancer in women of all ages.

This simple blood test could potentially help prevent 35% of all future cases from developing – helping save the lives of thousands of women.

Graphic - help us beat breast cancer - support our research by taking part in Life Cycle 6


Close up of a slide - part of our research to develop the world's first blood test to detect breast cancer

How does this blood test work?

Cancers result from abnormal cells multiplying rapidly. For someone with a fatal form of the disease, it is thought that their initial abnormal cells will divide on average 40 times, producing over 1,000,000,000,000 cancer cells.  Typically, symptoms don’t appear until between 20-40 multiplications have occurred.

However our bodies produce anti-bodies in response to the first abnormal activity. This blood test works by detecting these anti-bodies, identifying the cancer at a much earlier stage and meaning that less aggressive treatments are needed. 

This simple test could also help doctors identify women at the highest risk of developing the disease, giving them the chance to access effective anti-hormonal treatments.  

Professor John Robertson working in the laboratory

Together, we can help save lives 

Our researchers have already made a real impact by developing the world’s first blood test to detect lung cancer.

Described as a 'landmark in cancer detection', this test is already helping save lives in America and is currently undergoing a large-scale clinical trial in Scotland.

A blood test offers real hope to women everywhere. It is relatively cheap, simple to administer and is a standard procedure - making it easy for both doctors and patients. 

Unlike mammograms - which are less effective for younger women - a blood test should work in pre-menopausal women just as well as post-menopausal women of all ages.


Graphic - our innovative research into breast cancer needs your help

You can make a difference by giving a gift  

From biking and baking to organising your own fundraising event or challenge – there are lots of great ways to support this research by taking part in Life Cycle 6 - our annual fundraising campaign. 

Love cycling? Join us here in Nottingham for our sponsored, family-friendly bike ride on Sunday 4th September. Choose your challenge with routes from 10 to 75 miles.

Get involved in Life Cycle 6 


   "100% of every penny
will go direct to
this life-saving research"


Sponsor Professor Robertson to cycle 1,400 miles!

Professor John Robertson - who leads this innovative work - is setting off this August with our Vice-Chancellor and others to ride a gruelling 1,400 miles in just 16 days to the 4 compass points of Britain to raise vital funds for this exciting research. 

 You can sponsor John and the team’s herculean efforts through Just Giving   

Professor John Robertson with his bike

More breast cancer research