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Professor Mitch Dowsett

Team Leader

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Professor Mitch Dowsett’s studies into the role of hormones in breast cancer have led to the clinical development of aromatase inhibitors. He holds membership to several senior committees and is on the executive committees for several clinical trials. Team: Endocrinology
020 7808 2885/2887 ORCID 0000-0003-4122-744X


Professor Mitch Dowsett has a long-standing interest in breast cancer. His PhD training was conducted at The Institute of Cancer Research, London on the mechanism of bone breakdown by breast cancer metastases. His interest in biomarkers was also initiated and extended by training in Clinical Biochemistry at St Barts Hospital, London. This placed him in a good position for then managing (from 1980) the steroid biochemistry service at the Chelsea Hospital for Women, a specialist centre for infertility and gynaecology that was adjacent to The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, London.

Collaboration with the Breast Unit of the The Royal Marsden was initiated immediately with Drs Ian Smith, Adrian Harris, Charles Coombes and Trevor Powles (all long since Professors). He joined The Royal Marsden in 1988 as head of a new Biochemical Endocrinology Team and became Head of the joint Royal Marsden Hospital-ICR Academic Department of Biochemistry in 1990.

His chair in Biochemical Endocrinology was awarded by London University in 1994 and he was named Professor of Translational Research in the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre in 2004. He is the Theme Leader for Breast Cancer Research for the Biomedical Research Centre for Cancer and leader of the Endocrinology Team in the Breast Cancer Now Breast Cancer Centre. He was awarded the William McGuire Memorial Lectureship in 2007 and has been a Senior Investigator of National Institute of Health Research since 2009.

His main scientific interests have for many years related to the endocrine basis of the majority of breast cancers. This ranges from trying to understand better the importance of hormones as effectors of a variety of epidemiological risk factors (e.g. obesity, early/late childbirth) and their potential for evaluating risk in healthy women, to understanding the mechanisms of response and resistance to oestrogen deprivation in the treatment of breast cancer. As such, he played a central role with in the clinical development of aromatase inhibitors, which are now widely accepted to be the most effective endocrine agents for postmenopausal women. His interest in the pharmacodynamics of endocrine treatment led to the nuclear proliferation marker Ki67, which now has multiple uses in pre-surgical studies, and more generally in the popularity of neoadjuvant therapies for evaluating new drugs. He views the pre-surgical setting as being uniquely informative for the in vivo study of breast cancer biology and new therapeutic strategies.

His current, or recent senior committee memberships include Executive Committee of Breast International Group (since 2009), inaugural chairmanship of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Biomarker and Imaging Clinical Study Group from 2006 to 2011, Special Awards Committee of American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), NCRI Breast Clinical Study Group, Scientific Chairman of Aromatase 2010 and Improving Care and Knowledge Through Translational Research (IMPAKT) 2011, and Chairman of the Aromatase Inhibitor Overview Group. He is also on the Executive Committee of several clinical trials: ATAC (now LATTE), HERA, POETIC and Chair of the Translational Subcommittees of each of these.

He is a passionate advocate of the need for standardised, well-validated assays for biomarkers in the clinical management of breast cancer, and is on the Steering Committee for ASCO/CAP guidelines for steroid receptor measurements and a member of the committee for HER2 guidelines.