Professor Jelle Wesseling

Preventing unnecessary breast cancer treatment

Professor Jelle Wesseling is leading a Cancer Grand Challenges Programme, and is a senior group leader at the Netherlands Cancer Institute and Professor of Breast Pathology at the Leiden University Medical Center. His project aims to distinguish between lethal cancers that need treating, and non-lethal cancers that don't.

Professor Wesseling’s focus is on breast cancer, and he is working out how to prevent patients from undergoing unnecessary treatments.

Every year, around 6,300 women in the UK are told they have a condition called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). However, not all women with DCIS will go on to develop cancer. Unfortunately, we can’t yet tell the difference between DCIS that will go on to become cancer and other cases of DCIS that won’t, so most women diagnosed with DCIS have surgery to remove the abnormal cells. This means some of these women are undergoing unnecessary treatment that may not benefit them.

Professor Wesseling’s team will study tissue samples from women in the UK, US and the Netherlands, taken from patients with DCIS during surgery. The team will study the genetic and cellular make-up of these samples and collect clinical information from these women about whether their DCIS came back, or if they later developed breast cancer. They will then combine this information to search for clues that might indicate how likely it is someone with DCIS will develop breast cancer.

The results from these studies can then be tested in clinical trials to see if these clues can be used to distinguish between those women that need treatment and those that don’t. By doing this, we can help women avoid having unnecessary treatments, along with the side effects and emotional challenges that go with them.

You can read more about the research here.

Breast cancer
Cancer biology

The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Plesmanlaan 121, 1066 CX Amsterdam, Netherlands

Lab website