Apr 23, 2018
Even the most talented athletes cannot win major championships on their own. Victory is the result of teamwork, training, perseverance, and occasionally a stroke of luck. The same holds true when it comes to tackling breast cancer. Since 2001, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) and ASCO’s Conquer Cancer Foundation have been teaming up to advance cutting-edge breast cancer research. BCRF was founded in 1993 by the late Evelyn Lauder and her husband, Leonard, along with Larry Norton, MD, FASCO, medical director of the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, who continues to serve as BCRF’s scientific director. It was formed out of Mrs. Lauder’s unyielding view that research was the only way to end breast cancer and that empowering the best minds in the field would fuel the innovations to move the needle. Those founding principles still define BCRF.
When BCRF was founded, the research and treatment landscape looked vastly different than it does today. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the foundation and others, breast cancer mortality rates in the U.S. are down nearly 40% since 1993 and there are currently more than 3.5 million women and men who are survivors of the disease. This is largely due to advances in early detection, adjuvant treatment, and targeted drugs. Treatment for breast cancer is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach. Therapy is guided by tumor biology, and while not always curative, it has made formerly deadly diseases, like HER2-positive breast cancer, more treatable. In 2018, women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer have a 99% chance of 5-year survival.
BCRF has a unique model that focuses on funding people, not projects. The focus is on investigators who have demonstrated success in the field, allowing them the freedom to be nimble and creative in their approach to science. Yet, BCRF also recognizes how critical it is for young investigators to have their own support to fund their path to independence. “Today’s young investigators are tomorrow’s innovators, and our partnership with Conquer Cancer allows us to foster this intellectual pool,” said Myra Biblowit, BCRF president and CEO.
The longstanding collaboration between BCRF and Conquer Cancer has provided a mechanism by which BCRF can provide support to talented and rigorously vetted early-career physician-scientists through the Young Investigator Award and other Conquer Cancer programs. Past recipients have gone on to receive other BCRF grants, including Vered Stearns, MD, and Lajos Pusztai, MD, PhD, who serve on the BCRF Scientific Advisory Board, and many others who continue working to improve patients’ lives.
In 2018, BCRF is supporting a Conquer Cancer Advanced Clinical Research Award, Career Development Award, and five Young Investigator Awards (YIAs) including the Evelyn H. Lauder Endowed Young Investigator Award. The latter was established in 2012 in memory of Evelyn Lauder and supports one YIA each year in perpetuity. Since 2001, BCRF has invested more than $10 million in support of 69 breast cancer research grants through Conquer Cancer.
“Conquer Cancer is extremely appreciative of the generous and ongoing support for many years from BCRF to fund cutting-edge breast cancer research. We deeply value this partnership, which provides critical support for early-career scientists working to unravel the mysteries of breast cancer and help even more patients and families,” said Nancy R. Daly, MS, MPH, executive vice president and chief philanthropic officer of Conquer Cancer.
BCRF-funded investigators have been involved in every major breakthrough in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship over the last two decades. Notable highlights include identification of genetic risk and screening, improved diagnostics and surgery, drug discovery and novel therapies, advances in the science behind lifestyle factors and risk reduction, and improving quality of life for survivors of breast cancer.
BCRF recognizes that while incredible strides have been made over the last 25 years, much critical work remains to be done. Despite great progress, breast cancer incidence rates have remained stable, making prevention an important priority, and metastasis continues to take the lives of more than 40,000 women and men each year.
Through the committed funds of the Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund Initiative in metastatic breast cancer, BCRF investigators are identifying new targets and teasing out the molecular underpinnings of metastatic breast cancer that can someday lead to better treatments and prevention interventions.
In addition to the Founder’s Fund and BCRF’s flagship investigator program, the organization will continue to grow initiatives including the Drug Research Collaborative—a unique partnership that allows BCRF investigators to test new or pipeline drugs to provide more treatment options for patients with metastatic breast cancer. As long as there is breast cancer, BCRF will continue to seek solutions to the persistent challenges in breast cancer, including drug resistance, late recurrences, inherited risk, prevention, and quality of life.