The Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre brings together world leaders in key research areas and has over 60 researchers across 12 teams.

In 1999, the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre opened its doors to some of the brightest minds in research, with the sole aim of tackling breast cancer and stopping women dying from the disease. Now 20 years on, the Centre, housed in the Mary-Jean Mitchell-Green Building at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, continues to make great progress into advancing our understanding of the causes of breast cancer and developing essential new treatments. We take a look back over its incredible history and the role the Centre has played in shaping the breast cancer research landscape of today.

Where it all began

Toby RobinsToby Robins

In 1986 the actress Toby Robins died from breast cancer. Her husband Bill Freedman and their family refused to accept that her story should end there. Instead, he turned her loss into something remarkable.

Together with Professor Barry Gusterson of the Institute of Cancer Research, he recognised that a new approach was needed to tackle the disease.

Their vision was a centre of excellence for breast cancer research, with experts working under one roof on a coordinated programme of research.

Mary-Jean Mitchell GreenMary-Jean Mitchell Green

Successful businesswoman Mary-Jean Mitchell Green was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987 and died of the disease just two years later at the age of only 38. When Mary-Jean knew she didn’t have long to live, she created a foundation to fund the fight against breast cancer. Her husband, Peter Green donated more than £1.6 million to support the building of the UK’s first dedicated breast cancer research centre, housed here in the Mary-Jean Mitchell Green Building named in her memory.

The Mary-Jean Mitchell Green Foundation continues to fund research taking place at the Centre, and has generously donated over £4.7 million to date, ensuring that Mary-Jean’s legacy continues to help prevent women dying from breast cancer.

20 years of achievement

The Centre has been at the forefront of many of the key breakthroughs in breast cancer research, including the crucial study which found that a group of drugs called PARP inhibitors could target weaknesses in cancer cells with changes in BRCA genes.

Our researchers have made great strides in enhancing our understanding of breast cancer, from developing liquid biopsies and identifying how healthy cells can help the cancer to spread to analysing the data from the Breast Cancer Now Generations Study and Male Breast Cancer study to pinpoint the causes of breast cancer.

The Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre today

The Centre is currently under the leadership of Professor Andrew Tutt and continues to make significant progress towards furthering our understanding of breast cancer and how to treat it. Breast Cancer Now currently funds 12 different research teams at the Centre, comprised of over 60 scientists, who are working together to identify the risk factors associated with breast cancer, develop effective new therapies and prevent secondary breast cancer from taking lives.

Closely linked to the prestigious cancer research hospital, the Royal Marsden, the Centre’s researchers are bringing their findings from the lab bench to the patient’s bedside, and leading pioneering clinical studies which will ultimately help us stop women dying from breast cancer.

Find out more about the work currently being funded at the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre: