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John M.S. Bartlett, PhD

Director, Transformative Pathology Platform and
Ontario Tumor Bank
Honorary Professor, The University of Edinburgh
Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
Toronto, Ontario

Current Research

  • Characterizing the biology of breast cancer in men to develop better treatments and improve outcomes.

  • Male breast cancer samples are being evaluated for prognostic and predictive biomarkers. 

  • The Male Breast Cancer Study has shed new light on this disease and will continue to guide better treatments and prevention strategies.

Male breast cancer is a rare disease accounting for less than 1 % of all breast cancers and 1 % of all cancers in men. Knowledge about this disease is still scarce and management is largely extrapolated from female breast cancer. Dr. Bartlett is part of an international effort led by BCRF investigators Fatima Cardoso and Sharon Giordano to characterize the biology of male breast cancer to develop better treatments and improve outcomes for men with breast cancer. The project consists of a retrospective analysis of tumor samples and clinical data, a prospective registry of men with breast cancer and a clinical trial to test new treatments.

Full Research Summary

The Male Breast Cancer Study (MBCS), led by Dr. Fatima Cardoso with BCRF colleagues, Drs. Bartlett, Giordano and Symmans, is an ongoing worldwide effort coordinated by the European Organization for the Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), with the help of the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC), and organized under the network of the Breast International Group [BIG] and the North American Breast Cancer Groups (NABCG).

This program has three parts. Part One is a retrospective joint analysis of clinical data and tumor samples. The study involved 1473 male breast cancer patients treated in the last 20 years in 23 centers from nine countries, representing the largest series of male breast cancer patients ever studied. Results from these efforts have identified both similarities and differences in biology compared to female breast cancer, including specific molecular subtypes, with potential treatment implications. This year, the research team will focus on identifying biomarkers that could guide treatment decisions. 

Part Two of the study is focused on creating a prospective registry of all male breast cancer patients treated within the EORTC/TBCRC/BIG/NABCG global network and includes collection of biological material that can be used for future studies. This part is ongoing with over 300 patients on study. The researchers are currently conducting in-depth biological characterization of the samples.

Part Three is a prospective clinical trial that will evaluate a new drug to treat male breast cancer. The trial has not been initiated yet.

This important work will lead to the development of better treatment strategies for men with breast cancer.


Professor John Bartlett is Professor of Molecular Pathology at Edinburgh University, Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists and the Group Leader of the Endocrine Cancer Group at the University of Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre at the Western General Hospital. Dr Bartlett graduated in 1982 with a B.Sc (hons) in Biochemistry and subsequently a PhD in reproductive physiology in 1985. His interest in cancer research and molecular biology started in 1990 and he joined the University of Edinburgh in March 2006. Over the past 10 years he has developed research into the molecular biology of breast cancer during which time he has developed a significant expertise in translational science in breast cancer and the pathobiology of type I receptor tyrosine kinases. He is the author of over 125 papers. Dr John Bartlett is also involved in the TRANSBIG research network and in scientific working groups as part of the Breast International Group (BIG) network.

Grid Reasercher Headshot - Bartlett John

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Play for P.I.N.K. Award

Area(s) of Focus