06. August 2020

The University Hospital Basel’s Breast Care Centre at the international forefront

An ongoing study, seven newly defined key research areas and a clear mission for the years ahead: the Breast Care Centre at the University Hospital Basel is setting the benchmark in surgical breast cancer treatment at international level via the Oncoplastic Breast Consortium.


The Breast Care Centre at the University Hospital Basel is getting ever closer to the very forefront of international breast surgery. The Oncoplastic Breast Consortium (OPBC) set up three years ago by Professor Walter Weber has now become an international institution, as evidenced, for example, by the fact that The Lancet Oncology – the world’s leading oncology journal – has just published an OPBC report. More than 500 researchers and a number of patient advocates from over 70 different countries have subscribed to the consortium’s mission. The aim of this consortium of experts is to establish oncoplastic breast surgery in clinical practice across the world as a more patient-friendly alternative to conventional breast surgery. Compared to traditional surgical methods, oncoplastic surgery places more emphasis on breast reconstruction when performing tumour operations with a view to improving the aesthetic outcome for patients and their quality of life. When removing a breast tumour, not only is the shape of the affected breast immediately reconstructed, but the other, healthy breast can also be reshaped to create a matching visual appearance. The patient therefore only has to undergo one operation to achieve an oncologically clear result that is also aesthetically attractive, with no deformities or imbalances. Not only does this relieve a great deal of stress for patients after their surgery, it also means that they do not have to go under the knife again to have their breast fully or partially reconstructed. This approach requires a well-coordinated team of breast surgeons, gynaecologists and plastic surgeons.

Some 20 years have now passed since these techniques were first tried out, but until now the idea of using this approach to spare patients a huge amount of emotional stress and multiple operations has only made limited headway internationally. The OPBC aims to change this. It meets once a year in Basel, with the most recent conference attracting 60 leading experts from all over the world. The consortium has identified seven knowledge gaps in breast cancer treatment and is planning to conduct research into these areas over the next ten years.

The Basel-based initiative is therefore defining the research being carried out in the field where it is believed the future of surgical breast cancer treatment lies. An initial randomised study being conducted by the OPBC has already received 1.6 million Swiss francs in funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation, as well as further support from the Swiss Cancer League and the Basel Cancer League. Prof. Walter Weber is the Principal Investigator for this study, for which he has also been awarded the Annemarie Karrasch Research Prize by the propatient research foundation.