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Metastatic Breast Cancer Research: An Area of Focus for BCRF Researchers
BCRF is the largest private funder of metastatic breast cancer research in the world.
Metastatic breast cancer (MBC), also referred to as stage IV or advanced breast cancer, is incurable and responsible for virtually all breast cancer related deaths, leading to more than 40,000 deaths in women and men in the U.S. each year.
While we’ve made signiﬁcant strides in understanding and treating primary breast cancer, we still have much to learn about metastatic breast cancer. Progress has been slow in identifying better treatments and ways to prevent metastasis.
Metastatic breast cancer research is a major focus for BCRF. This year BCRF is the largest private funder of metastatic breast cancer research in the world investing $27 million, funding 90 projects. The investment comprises 40 percent of the Foundation’s overall grant program.
“Virtually all deaths from cancer are from metastases – we lose more than 40,000 people in the U.S. alone to metastatic breast cancer each year," says Dorraya El-Ashry, BCRF Chief Scientific Officer.
"That’s why metastatic breast cancer research remains a high priority at BCRF. These projects will help us understand the full spectrum of metastatic disease in order to both effectively treat it and ultimately prevent it altogether.”
These funded projects span every aspect of metastasis including:
- Understanding the intricacies of the events that lead to cancer cell invasion at the local tissue
- How cancer cells survive in the circulation and then grow at new sites
- Identifying new markers to predict the risk of metastasis or new targets for drug development
- Clinical trials testing new treatments for metastatic breast cancer
In addition to these 90 projects, BCRF has supported the establishment and research of the Evelyn H. Lauder Founders’ Fund for metastatic breast cancer research.
The Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund
In 2013, under the direction of Co-Scientific Director Dr. Larry Norton and former Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board Dr. Clifford Hudis, BCRF established a dedicated fund to support research to specifically address the persistent challenges of breast cancer metastasis. This fund now known as the Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund, has dedicated $31 million to date to support research that will accelerate discoveries to improve outcomes for people living with metastatic breast cancer and ultimately, prevent metastases altogether.
The centerpiece of the Fund are the AURORA projects, based in the EU and U.S. Inspired by The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA)—which compiled the landmark genomic database of primary tumors—AURORA is building the world’s largest multi-disciplinary repository of matched primary and metastatic tumor data. Deep analysis of metastatic tumor DNA, RNA, and proteins are providing new insights into the processes and mechanisms of metastatic cancer. This invaluable resource can be mined to fuel future research and help provide answers to questions we haven’t yet formulated.
AURORA-EU is based in Brussels and conducted by the Breast International Group (BIG) under the oversight of Dr. Martine Piccart. The objective of AURORA-EU is to conduct precise molecular analyses of primary and metastatic breast cancer samples to better understand the evolution of metastasis and the mechanisms of drug resistance that allow tumors to grow and spread. The program involves 11 collaborative research groups and two independent sites across 14 countries throughout Europe. Approximately 80 clinical sites will participate with 60 already active. In total, at least 1,000 women and men with metastatic breast cancer will be enrolled. Preliminary studies have already identified new potential molecular targets.
AURORA-US shares the goals of AURORA-EU. In addition to enrolling new patients with metastatic disease, the U.S. study will more rapidly advance metastasis research by studying tumors from previously treated patients with known outcomes. Eleven sites across the U.S. are participating in that retrospective study, and additional sites will contribute to a prospective trial to be launched in fall 2019. Ongoing analysis of patient samples will help determine the features that cause metastasis and/or resistance to treatment. Leading the various efforts of AURORA-U.S. are Drs. Antonio Wolff, Tari King, Minetta Liu, Charles Perou, Elaine Mardis, Lisa Carey, Andrea Richardson, and Fraser Symmans.
While the AURORA studies are the flagship of the Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund additional projects augment the efforts of the AURORA groups to help accelerate discoveries. Ancillary projects have studied breast cancers that have metastasized to the brain; built cutting-edge lab models of metastatic tumor growth and treatment response; and leveraged the power of the internet to build a massive online registry of patient-reported metastatic tumor and clinical data.
Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance
BCRF is a founding member of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance, a coalition of 50 nonprofits, patients, pharmaceutical companies, and biotech that work together to improve the lives and outcomes for those living with metastatic breast cancer through education, awareness and the advancement of research. BCRF serves as the administrative home of the MBC Alliance and BCRF staff are engaged in Alliance initiatives to advance its mission.