Ten "critical" gaps in knowledge about the development of breast cancer must be addressed, including how it evades therapy according to a group of leading cancer experts.
Plugging these gaps in research would lead to improved clinical care for patients within five years, the review of evidence by more than 100 scientists, doctors and healthcare professionals suggests.
Projections by Cancer Research UK show that 185,000 lives will be lost by 2030 at current progress rates in this country.
Co-author Prof Alistair Thompson, of the University of Dundee said advances in science had transformed knowledge of breast cancers over the past four or five years.
"We're beginning to understand some of the greater complexities of what we're having to deal with and unpick some of the mechanisms by which cancer cells work, divide and spread," he said.
The team identified the 10 key gaps that need be plugged as:
- better understanding of genetic factors
- pinpointing sustainable lifestyle changes
- targeted breast screening to those who will most benefit
- understanding how breast cancers grow and spread
- understanding how cancer cells with different characteristics form within a tumour
- tests to measure how well patients will respond to chemotherapy or radiotherapy
- improving drug regimens
- developing better imaging techniques
- practical support tissue donation and analysis
Prof Thompson said the most important gap in research was to find out how cancer progresses.
One "real" advantage to patients with breast cancer that had spread was to take a biopsy of the secondary tumour to see how much it had changed, enabling treatment to be better targeted in one in six women, which could "transform" care, he added.