12 Ways to Fund the Fight Against Breast Cancer

Dozens of charities work for a breast cancer cure. But before you run another race or buy another pink product, find out where your money’s going. Here, we asked some of the most interesting minds in medicine for their priorities for breast cancer funds.

By Bari Nan Cohen

Research, Education, Detection & MoreAccording to the most recent analysis, 20 organizations raised a collective $1.06 billion for breast cancer. And only half operate efficiently, notes Sandra Miniutti of charitynavigator.org, a charity evaluator. There’s even one outfit that spends less than 30 percent of its budget on programs and an astonishing 65 percent on fund-raising expenses.See how your favorite charities stack up Because there’s no coordination at the national level of what research gets done or how funds are allocated, we need to do some homework before we purchase a product or pledge a contribution. Make sure you know what the scientists on the front lines of breast cancer research are citing as their primary interests in finding a cure and treating those afflicted. To give you some ideas about where your money might be well spent, we asked 13 breast cancer experts one question: If you had unlimited funds, which path would you pursue in the fight against breast cancer? Get ready for some surprising answers. 1. Create the right research environment. "I’d do what wealthy people did during the Renaissance to get great art: look for talented people and give them enough money to be creative. I’d put together a team of clinicians, scientists, nurses, patient advocates, ethicists, philosophers, and artists. I’d give them the funds to follow their imaginations without having to write grants, or please authority figures, or worry about how their colleagues respond. I think that would dramatically improve our ability to get to the bottom of this." — Larry Norton, MD, deputy physician-in-chief for breast cancer programs, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center2. Figure out the next magic pill. "Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors have really made a difference in survivorship. Yet there are still women whose cancer doesn’t respond to these drugs. So, I’d want to focus on why cancer becomes resistant to them. Then we could probably figure out a medication to overcome that. I think this would directly benefit about 70 percent of women with breast cancer that is sensitive to hormonal treatment." — Stephen E. Jones, MD, medical director, US Oncology Research 3. Educate patients better. "We need to do better monitoring so patients get good information, not fluff. And the nice thing is, education doesn’t take a lot of money — it takes creativity." — Edith Perez, MD, director, Breast Cancer Program, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida4. Track the development of the breast. "No one has really looked at the normal changes that can affect stem cell behavior in the breast throughout its development. There’s good evidence that some cancers begin in one or more stem cells and some evidence breast cancer may begin this way as well. Therefore I believe that understanding the normal regulation of mammary epithelial stem cells will help guide cancer research." — Gloria Chepko, PhD, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University5. Go beyond early detection to predetection. "The more we understand how cancer develops, the more we will be able to prevent it from ever growing. My research uses magnetic resonance imaging. Currently, we use maybe five percent of its capacity. If we can develop the technology to show the whole metabolism technology to show the whole metabolism of the tissue — much more than MRI does now — we’d have a noninvasive way to determine how the disease starts." — Professor Hadassa Degani, Weizmann Institute of Science 6. Help the uninsured. "I would make sure that every woman without insurance could afford a mammogram and have access to healthcare. I see women undergoing cancer treatment who are evicted because they don’t have jobs that continue to pay them while they are off work for treatment. It’s more common than you think." — Geri Blair, 21-year survivor and founder of Minority Women with Breast Cancer Uniting Inc.7. Identify even more breast cancer types. "We know that breast cancer represents a whole family of molecularly distinct, biologically distinct diseases. Our recent study found that young African-American women are more than twice as likely to get one of the more aggressive subtypes (the so-called basal-like cancers) compared with any other patient group and significantly less likely to get the least aggressive subtype (the luminal).

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