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The rising incidence of breast cancer is a major clinical challenge in many parts of the world, including North Africa. Recent advances in some countries demonstrate that breast cancer is often a treatable disease. In Europe, Japan, and the USA, breast cancer mortality has decreased significantly over the past 10 years due to a combination of screening/early detection and improved treatment based on protocols that take into account specific tumour characteristics (e.g. anti-hormone therapies and therapeutic modalities targeting activated HER2 or angiogenesis).

Improved knowledge of the specific clinical and pathological breast cancer profiles in North Africa will have immediate clinical benefits, enabling clinicians to determine the most effective treatment options for their North African patients. A range of therapeutic options are now available for different types of breast cancer, including aggressive types; however, deciding on the most appropriate treatment protocol for each patient remains challenging. The EDSMAR study will facilitate the development of a protocol for the administration of appropriate drugs and treatment. The study collaborators aim to disseminate this new knowledge as quickly as possible from bench to bedside, and to provide training to ensure that the use of appropriate biomarkers quickly becomes standard practice for the management of breast cancer in leading North African centres.

Another benefit of the study will be a more in-depth understanding of the clinical context and the stage at which breast cancer is currently detected and diagnosed in North Africa. Primary prevention is particularly important in North African settings because tumours are often diagnosed at late stages. The identification of factors associated with women’s decisions to seek medical attention for breast symptoms will help to identify obstacles to obtaining medical care at earlier stages of disease. This will in turn enable public health officials to design effective screening strategies to achieve breast cancer diagnosis at earlier stages, and will therefore improve survival.

The primary long-term benefit of this research will be improvements in breast cancer prevention and early detection in highly susceptible subgroups. Such improvements will be made possible through the project’s aims of better understanding the risk factors for breast cancer and developing strategies to prevent future cases through interventions targeting modifiable risk factors such as dietary habits and lifestyle. This approach will enable the development of predictive models for various subtypes of breast cancer, and the project will contribute to the dissemination of information and educational programmes about breast cancer awareness and early detection.