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The Ground We've Gained

Nearly three decades ago, Evelyn H. Lauder and Dr. Larry Norton recognized the urgent need to eradicate breast cancer. As they sat at the Lauder kitchen table discussing how to achieve their shared dream of a world free of breast cancer, they envisioned the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Since 1993, BCRF-supported investigators have been deeply involved in every major breakthrough in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, metastasis, and survivorship.

Research is the reason there are more than 4 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. and deaths from breast cancer have declined by 43 percent since 1989. But with more than 43,000 lives lost to the disease each year, there is still critical work to be done.


The first organization dedicated exclusively to breast cancer research, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, is founded by Evelyn H. Lauder with support from BCRF Founding Scientific Director Dr. Larry Norton.


BCRF’s first grants are awarded to eight scientists in the U.S. Today, BCRF grants support the work of more than 250 investigators around the world.


Dr. Mary-Claire King, a BCRF grantee since 1997, discovers the location of the BRCA1 gene and uncovers its role in hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.


An English team of scientists including Dr. Alan Ashworth, a BCRF grantee since 2008, discovers the BRCA2 gene.


The FDA approves Herceptin (trastuzumab), a targeted therapy for HER2-positive breast cancer proven to decrease the risk of recurrence by 50 percent. Herceptin and newer targeted drugs have dramatically changed the management of HER2-positive breast cancer. BCRF investigators continue to research new targeted therapies and how they can be combined with existing treatments to improve outcomes.


Tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen drug used to treat early and advanced stages of the disease, is approved for primary prevention. In a 20-year follow-up study reported in 2014, it was found that women with a high risk of breast cancer who take Tamoxifen can reduce their incidence of the disease by about 30 percent.


BCRF awards its first international grant to Dr. Ephrat Levy-Lahad at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Israel. Today, BCRF funds researchers in 14 countries, all working to dramatically improve diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of breast cancer for women and men everywhere.

Dr. Ephrat Levy-Lahad


Dr. Charles Perou, a BCRF grantee since 2003, classifies breast cancer as a collection of diseases based on different patterns of genes. His discovery reshapes our understanding of breast cancer and helps to guide how treatments are selected.

Dr. Charles Perou


BCRF investigators first identify breast cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells were previously thought only to play a role in blood cancers (hematologic malignancies). From this knowledge, our researchers can explore ways to target breast cancer stem cells to prevent breast cancer progression and metastasis.
Cancer stem cells


Recurrence predictor Oncotype DX® launches. The test quantifies the likelihood of breast cancer recurrence for early-stage breast cancer patients and predicts the magnitude of chemotherapy benefit. This new tool helps ensure patients not only receive the right drugs but that those patients with a high risk of recurrence or metastasis receive preventive measures early.

Oncotype DX


BCRF and the National Cancer Institute form BIG-NCTN (formerly known as the BIG-NABCG Trans-Atlantic Breast Cancer Initiative)—the first major transatlantic effort to coordinate clinical trials and studies of patient samples.



The Institute of Medicine issues its “From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition” report, the first-ever formal recommendations for cancer survivorship research and care. Because we know a breast cancer diagnosis can be a significant change, BCRF has long supported research that will improve quality of life during and after treatment.



The American Cancer Society recommends that high-risk women, such as those known to carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, receive additional breast MRI screening.MRI screening


The FDA approves MammaPrint®, a 70-gene diagnostic test developed by BCRF investigator Dr. Laura van ‘t Veer that seeks to better predict breast cancer recurrence in women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. The genomic test can help physicians determine whether chemotherapy is necessary.



Preventive surgery—the removal of ovaries, fallopian tubes, and breasts—is confirmed to reduce the risk of breast cancer in BRCA1 and 2 gene mutation carriers.

Preventive surgery


BCRF investigators launch the large, multi-city Legacy Girls Study to examine environmental exposures in a cohort of more than 1,000 young girls in San Francisco, New York, Ontario, Philadelphia, and Utah.

Legacy Girls Study


Perjeta® (pertuzumab) is approved for HER2-positive breast cancer in combination with Herceptin and chemotherapy. In people with metastatic breast cancer, the new combination improved overall survival to 56 months—up from 40 months without combination.



The Rosner–Colditz model considers well-established risk factors for breast cancer, including body mass index, alcohol consumption, and age at first menstrual period. The model also includes information not considered in other prediction methods, such as a woman’s age at menopause and the type of menopause (whether natural or following the surgical removal of ovaries).



The American Cancer Society reports that more than 3 million women and men were then living with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. Today, that number is more than 4 million.

breast cancer


The Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance launches. Fifteen foundations, including BCRF, unite with six pharmaceutical companies to improve the lives of women and men living with metastatic breast cancer.

The Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance launches. Fifteen foundations, including BCRF, unite with six pharmaceutical companies to improve the lives of women and men living with metastatic breast cancer.


The FDA approves Kadcyla® (trastuzumab emtansine), the first antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) for treating breast cancer—specifically HER2-positive metastatic disease. T-DM1 combines a HER2-specific antibody (trastuzumab) with a potent anti-cancer agent (emtansine) to bind to HER2 on breast cancer cells, and then enters and kills them while sparing other, healthy cells. ADCs represent an exciting, highly targeted new class of therapies for breast cancer.


American Cancer Society reports that deaths from breast cancer have declined by 38 percent since 1990.

breast cancer


BCRF launches the Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund for Metastatic Breast Cancer in memory of Mrs. Lauder who passed away in 2011. The Founder’s Fund projects focus on dissecting the molecular basis of metastasis and identifying new targets for treating metastasis. The Fund supports researchers in both Europe and the U.S. via the AURORA studies. BCRF also supports numerous other projects and researchers focused on metastatic breast cancer. Read more here.

Evelyn H. Lauder Founder's Fund for Metastatic Breast Cancer


A new class of drugs known as CDK4/6 inhibitors are approved. CDK4/6 inhibitors have shown promise in the treatment of advanced ER-positive breast cancer. Cyclin-dependent kinases (CDK) regulate the process of cell division, which is required for growth. By blocking specific CDKs (4 and 6), cells are unable to multiply, and cancer can be slowed or stopped.



New York Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney and Texas Congressman Pete Sessions announce the introduction of the Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act (HR-3680) directing the U.S. Treasury to issue special minted coins to raise money for breast cancer research. The Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Program officially launched in 2018 with BCRF as the recipient of funds raised.

Cancer Awareness Commemorative


BCRF launches the Drug Research Collaborative, an effort to bridge the gap between academic investigators and access to drugs in development. The initiative is initially funded by a three-year, $15 million grant from Pfizer. The company gives researchers access to its portfolio of approved products and its pipeline of drugs under development. Within five years, the program expands to include participation from Eli Lilly and Company and Astellas Pharma Inc.

Drug Research Collaborative


The FDA approves Lynparza® (olaparib), the first PARP inhibitor for HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer in patients with BRCA1/2 mutations. The drug was previously approved to treat ovarian cancer in patients with BRCA mutations. Several BCRF investigators’ work contributed to the development of PARP inhibitors in breast and ovarian cancers.

first PARP inhibitor


After 10 years and 10,000 women, the BCRF-supported TAILORx trial confirms most women with early stage, ER-positive breast cancer (nearly 60,000 women per year) can forgo chemotherapy based on their Oncotype DX® Recurrence Scores®. The new development prevents overtreatment and allows patients to receive the most effective care for their tumor-type.

TAILORx trial


Investigators from the AURORA US and EU studies report first results showing that metastases underwent subtype and microenvironmental changes and gene modifications resulting in lower immune cells in the tumor microenvironment, plus other important changes. In addition, 50 percent of patients with breast cancer had mutations that could be targeted with current treatments.


Breast cancer brain metastases, while rare, are exceedingly difficult to treat, and patients with “brain mets” are largely excluded from trials. In April, the FDA approves Tukysa® (tucatinib) based on the results from the HER2CLIMB trial led by BCRF investigator Dr. Nancy Lin. Tucatinib is the first approved drug to treat HER2-positive breast cancer that has spread to the brain.

Dr. Nancy Lin


The BCRF-supported RxPONDER trial builds on TAILORx’s findings to include patients considered to be at a higher risk of recurrence. Results show that postmenopausal women with hormone receptor (HR)–positive, HER2-negative breast cancer that has spread to three or fewer lymph nodes can safely forego chemotherapy.

RxPONDER trial


The FDA approves the novel antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) Trodelvy® (sacituzumab govetican-hziy) specifically for treating metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Sacituzumab govetican-hziy is the first ADC constructed with an antibody that recognizes the Trop-2 protein, which is overexpressed in many cancers and substantially higher in TNBC and hormone receptor–positive/HER2-negative disease.


The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends the use of the Breast Cancer Index (BCI) assay developed by BCRF investigator Dr. Dennis Sgroi. BCI predicts which patients with early-stage, HR-positive breast cancer should extend anti-estrogen therapy beyond five years.

Breast Cancer Index


BCRF investigator Dr. Fergus Couch publishes the results of the first large, multi-center study (CARRIERS) to improve the accuracy of breast cancer risk assessment for women without a family history of the disease.

Dr. Fergus Couch


Investigators from the DESTINY-Breast04 trial in HER2-positive breast cancer report practice-changing results. For the first time, patients with low levels of HER2-expressing metastatic breast cancer benefited from a targeted therapy: the antibody-drug conjugate Enhertu® (trastuzumab deruxtecan). More than 55 percent of breast cancers are estimated to be HER2-low. This therapy and the DESTINY-Breast04 trial represent a new era of targeted treatments. BCRF investigators are building on this work and perfecting ways to measure HER2-low status.


BCRF establishes the Leigh Pate Living Biorepository of Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer—the first repository dedicated to this understudied form of breast cancer. The repository will house tumor organoids, images, and data that researchers around the globe can access.


BCRF launches the first-of-its-kind Global Data Hub for breast cancer research in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh. The Data Hub provides a centralized portal for researchers to share data along with cutting-edge computational capabilities to analyze massive amounts of untapped information for discoveries.