The Royal Marsden

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Take a closer look at the work carried out in the state-of-the-art Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research, funded by supporters of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity – including a generous donation from Ralph Lauren

The Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research


studies are run here at any one time


This is where we measure the hormone levels in the blood samples we take from our patients, as high levels are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. By investigating why hormone levels are elevated, we aim to be able to advise on lifestyle changes that patients can make or what drugs they could take to reduce the risk of breast cancer incidence and recurrence. Also, the growth of many breast cancers is dependent on the presence of the hormone oestradiol, a form of oestrogen. So our researchers also test the efficiency of drugs designed to reduce oestradiol concentrations.

FISH room

Fluorescence in-situ hybridisation (FISH) is a method of examining the cell’s genes under the microscope and highlighting the changes that cause cancer. In breast cancer research, FISH is used to identify patients whose tumours carry a particular aberration in their HER2 gene that makes them responsive to targeted treatment with the drug Herceptin. This highly specialised technique is not available in all laboratories, as it requires an expensive fluorescence microscope to view the results and considerable expertise to interpret them. However, because it can answer questions that can’t easily be addressed otherwise, The Royal Marsden has invested in the necessary equipment and staff training.


samples are analysed here every month

Molecular laboratory

Here, tumours are profiled by analysing the genetic codes in DNA and RNA. When the samples arrive, patients will have already received their diagnosis and had surgery. So our scientists are looking for mutations in the tumour in order 
to advise clinicians on the best treatment for the patient, and to estimate the likelihood of the tumour returning. ‘Liquid biopsies’ offer a new method of doing this is by testing for tumour DNA in the blood.


Tumour samples taken from patients, usually before and after drug treatment, are processed here. Sections of the sample are cut onto a glass slide and stained to reveal various biological markers. Comparing the presence of a marker before and after treatment informs us if a tumour is responding to the prescribed drug. This allows us to determine which patients will respond to chemotherapy – or may respond better to alternatively forms of therapy – thus sparing them unnecessary further treatment.