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- 19 August 2020 - 

Unlocking metastatic breast cancer: the AURORA research programme enrolls 1000 patients

As of today, BIG’s landmark programme AURORA, also known as the Metastatic Breast Cancer GPS, has enrolled 1,000 patients, an important milestone for this international academic study aiming to unlock the biology of metastatic breast cancer. This milestone was made possible through the efforts of researchers and patients from 11 European countries, 10 BIG groups and 66 hospitals and cancer centres. An ambitious plan to include up to 1000 additional patients is now underway.

By comparing the molecular landscape of metastatic tumour samples with their counterparts from primary tumours, and by correlating this with molecular analyses carried out in prospectively collected serum and plasma samples, AURORA offers a unique opportunity to generate robust findings that will shed light on the evolution of metastatic breast cancer – the leading cancer-related cause of death among women worldwide

Because of the great interest from around the globe in AURORA’s very rich and unique data, BIG plans to extend the study to recruit an additional 1,000 women and men, if enough funding can be secured. 

“The various teams taking part in this European research programme are proud to be contributing to the future development of more personalised medicine, while building a biobank and database that will be used to find better treatments,” explained Dr Philippe Aftimos, Co-Principal Investigator and Clinical Trials Development Leader at the Jules Bordet Institute in Brussels, Belgium.

“The patients have clearly understood the importance of this research programme. They are enthusiastic about taking part in the study and are contributing generously by providing samples and accepting to be monitored regularly over a 10-year period. Virtually no-one has refused to take part, and we are very grateful to all our patients,” said Dr Mafalda Oliveira, Co-Principal Investigator and Clinical Investigator at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain.

How it all started
 
The idea of AURORA grew up out of the BIG-NABCG* collaboration, where experts from both sides of the Atlantic realised that better understanding of metastatic breast cancer was essential in order to improve how this still incurable form of the disease is treated. Dr. Larry Norton, Founding Scientific Director of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation® (BCRF), together with Dr. Martine Piccart, Co-founder and Immediate Past-Chair of BIG and BCRF Scientific Advisory Board member, strongly championed and promoted the idea of a large international research effort. Both the US and BIG’s AURORA programmes could never have started if not for BCRF’s significant funding contribution from the very beginning, and over the years. 
 
“Two things became clear – the need for a major research effort in metastatic breast cancer, and the need for those working on the molecular aspects of cancer to work together at an international level, in order to avoid fragmentation of research and make real progress”, said Dr Norton.

The AURORA programme is being led by BIG in collaboration with the Clinical Trials Support Unit of the Jules Bordet Institute (IJB-CTSU) and the Frontier Science Technology & Research Foundation.

It is a purely academic programme made possible by generous contributions from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation®, Fondation Cancer (Luxembourg), the Belgium National Lottery, Fondation NIF, the Webb family and individual donors.
 

Read on to find out more about the AURORA research programme