Historic Research Investment Focuses on Metastatic Breast Cancer

Sean Tuffnell | Sep 16, 2019 | Community, Research

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Every fall Susan G. Komen announces our annual investment in research.  This is always an exciting time, as it is the culmination of a year-long process to raise the funds, set priorities for the funding and gather the leading minds in breast cancer research to review their peers’ applications and help us determine which projects to award.

This year’s grants are special for a number of reasons.  First, they mark our continued commitment to early career investigators, providing crucial funding to ensure then next generation of researchers continue to stay in the breast cancer field. 

In addition, our competitive peer review grants are entirely focused on investigating metastatic breast cancers, which is the stage in which breast cancer has spread beyond the breast to other parts of the body.  In all, between these competitive grants, our leadership grants and other funding mechanisms, 70 percent of this year’s funding is focused on metastatic breast cancer. 

And with the awarding of these 60 grants, worth $26 million, Susan G. Komen has now invested more than $1 billion in research since our founding, by far the largest and most significant investment in breast cancer research by a non-profit outside the federal government.  

This historic investment is made possible thanks to the generosity and passion of our supporters, from corporate partners to individuals who fundraise for us through one of our local Races and Walks.  In fact, at least 25 percent of the net funds raised locally by each of our Komen Affiliates is set aside explicitly for research.  In this way, our local Affiliates that were founded to provide support for the most critical breast health needs of their neighbors, are united together in a shared commitment to discovering breakthroughs that will lead to newer treatments and better outcomes for everyone facing this disease.  

In order to save more lives, we must address the main cause of breast cancer deaths: metastatic breast cancer. More than an estimated 154,000 women in the U.S. are living with metastatic breast cancer – the most advanced stage of breast cancer that has spread outside the breast, often to the brain, bones, liver and lungs. Currently, there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, and it is responsible for almost all the 42,000 breast cancer deaths in the U.S. each year.

Most people diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer – about 94 percent – were treated for an earlier stage of breast cancer only to find that it later returned as metastatic disease, some as long as 20 years later.  That reality means the risk, and fear, of recurrence never fully goes away for anyone who has experienced breast cancer, even if they get screened, have completed treatment, lead healthy lifestyles, have undergone recommended follow-ups and currently have no evidence of active disease. 

That’s why the focus of this year’s grants is so important.  Among the 60 grants Komen awarded, 38 are focused on better understanding and treating metastatic breast cancer. Grants were also given to researchers who are developing new therapies for breast cancer, including aggressive subtypes such as triple negative breast cancer, investigating drug resistance, and addressing health disparities in breast cancer outcomes among specific communities.

Breast cancer does not affect everyone equally and with the grants we’re funding this year, we’re moving closer to new therapies for aggressive forms of cancer, understanding why treatment doesn’t work in some patients and making sure everyone has access to the care they need. 

Our mission is multifaceted, as Komen is the only breast cancer organization that is applying a 360-degree approach to saving lives, fighting breast cancer across all fronts.  So, our commitment to supporting people with metastatic breast cancer does not stop with research.  Komen is making metastatic breast cancer a top priority across all facets of our mission, including public policy and patient support programs. 

We are committed to doing whatever it takes to save lives by investing in research that will help us better understand metastatic breast cancer, along with providing resources and support for people living with metastatic breast cancer and their families.

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