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BCRF’s Visionary Leadership: A Unique Model with Proven Results

By BCRF | March 25, 2015

Our goal is to put an end to breast cancer wherever it persists. To achieve this, for more than 20 years BCRF has provided critical funding to support innovative clinical and translational research at leading medical centers worldwide, increase public awareness about good breast health and research advances that have brought about more effective treatments and decreased mortalities.

Scientific research is an expensive enterprise, yet it is absolutely the only means to save lives from breast cancer. Thanks to the guidance of our Scientific Advisors led by BCRF’s Scientific Director Dr. Larry Norton, MD (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, MSKCC) and Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board Dr. Clifford Hudis, MD (MSKCC), the Foundation has recruited the best talent worldwide to help meet this challenge. In 2014-2015 alone, BCRF is investing $58.6 million in research, to support more than 225 researchers at leading medical institutions across six continents, including $11.6 million to the international Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund focused on metastasis.

Our unique approach allows BCRF’s Scientific Advisory Board to use their broad expertise and knowledge to seek out investigators whose thinking has demonstrated the potential to advance the prevention, understanding and treatment of breast cancer towards our goal of prevention and cure. Our grant invitation and review process involves a rigorous assessment and examination of creative new directions in clinical and translational breast cancer research in need of seed funding.  The breadth and depth of BCRF’s research portfolio, and the huge impact of BCRF-funded research to date, reflect the success of our Advisors’ approach.

The Scientific Advisors meet twice a year to review and discuss progress from current grantees and identify new opportunities to advance the science and improve the lives of people living with breast cancer. At their meeting in February, the Board announced the approval of four new grants focused on immunotherapy, metastasis and survivorship issues.

Karen Anderson, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Biodesign Institute, School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, and Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, Mesa, AZ will identify strategies that will improve response to emerging immunotherapies in breast cancer.

Annette R. Khaled, PhD, Associate Professor, College of Medicine, University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL will attempt  to better understand how tumor cells acquire the ability to migrate (move from one place to another), a key step in tumor metastasis (spreading to a distant site), with the goal of developing targeted therapies to inhibit this process.

Sherene Loi, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Melbourne, and Head, Translational Breast Cancer Genomics and Therapeutics Lab, Division of Research, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia will conduct studies to characterize how tumors interact with immune cells to identify ways to enhance anti-tumor immunity and pave the way for rational combination therapies.

Patricia A. Ganz, MD was awarded a new grant to test promising interventions to help young women with breast cancer cope with ongoing psychosocial stress and symptoms related to their diagnosis and treatment.  This project builds on Dr. Ganz’s ongoing work in breast cancer survivorship research and will be carried out at UCLA, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Johns Hopkins University.

While grantmaking is our primary function in our mission to end breast cancer, it is not the only way BCRF advances science. In 2014, BCRF announced a new partnership with Nature, the internationally renowned scientific publisher, and the launch of npj Breast Cancer, an open-access research journal, with Drs. Larry Norton and Clifford Hudis serving as editors-in-chief. Dr. Norton describes npj Breast Cancer as  “an exceptional opportunity to serve the scientific community and the general public by reporting important new findings in breast cancer research but also to capture the creativity, controversy, and deep thought intrinsic to the process.”

BCRF is also collaborating with Springer Publishing Company on a BCRF-authored series on breast cancer as a subset of the Springer imprint, Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. To date, three volumes are near completion or in production, with members of the Scientific Advisory Board spearheading the volumes.  Improving Outcomes for Breast Cancer Survivors: Perspective on Research Challenges and Opportunities, edited by Dr. Patricia Ganz is slated for spring release, and Novel Biomarkers in the Continuum of Breast Cancer, edited by Dr. Vered Stearns, is nearing completion. A third volume on genetics to be edited by Dr. Judy Garber has just been announced.

Fostering cooperative partnerships across disciplines in the cancer research and clinical communities is a key component of BCRF’s mission to advance science and improve outcomes in breast cancer. Collaboration is a hallmark of all our research activities, from the Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund to the new publishing ventures described above, to the annual research retreat held in New York each October and the symposia and panel discussions held at every BCRF public event.

BCRF has also played a leadership role in convening experts to discuss new strategies to address persistent challenges in the treatment of breast cancer. In October, BCRF joined the American Association of Cancer Research and the American Society for Clinical Oncology in sponsoring a workshop hosted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) focused on accelerating the development of new drugs for treatment of metastatic breast cancer.  Also in October, BCRF organized and hosted a two-day meeting to enhance efforts to reduce breast cancer disparities. Spearheaded by Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. Patricia Ganz, the meeting convened experts in disparities and health outcomes research, epidemiology, psychosocial and behavioral sciences, research oncologists and representatives from the patient community.

BCRF’s mission is simple: To end breast cancer forever.  We’re not there yet, but ASCO’s Annual Report, “Clinical Cancer Advances 2015,” highlighted advances in cancer care and emerging trends in technology expected to have a significant impact on the management of cancer in the next decade. Commenting on the report and BCRF’s impact in the field, Dr. Clifford Hudis, Chairman, BCRF Scientific Advisory Board, noted: “There are no clinically important advances in breast cancer that haven’t had some support from BCRF. We’ve been fortunate in being able to identify the most promising and innovative projects and investigators early and therefore help support them in making these advances.”