The American Cancer Society’s mission is to save lives, celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer. We’re the only cancer organization offering services and support for every aspect of a cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Each Monday in October we will highlight ways that we are living the mission and how people who support Making Strides and the American Cancer Society are impacting both their local community and communities around the world – including the virtual world – and helping to lead the fight against breast cancer.
One of the biggest ways we fight back and save lives is by finding the causes of breast cancer and ways to cure it.
As of March 2019, $64.3 million dollars (US) has been invested in breast cancer research. And as of March 2019, 160 research grants related to breast cancer have been funded. *Note: As of August 1, 2019 there are a total of 162 breast cancer grants in effect and $67 million dollars has been allocated to funding breast cancer research.
Science takes time, but as we learn from what we know from the past – that knowledge paves the path for breakthroughs ahead.
Take, for example, one of the most important discoveries in advancing the treatment and prevention of breast cancer. Identifying the BRCA1 gene in 1990 paved the way for understanding the link between mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. More than three decades later, we’re building on that science to uncover how mutations in these genes impact the likelihood of responsiveness or resistance to new chemotherapy drugs.
BRCA1 gene Timeline:
- 1950-19910: ongoing research established there were genetic links between breast and ovarian cancers.
- 1990: Researcher Mary-Claire King, PhD, discovered the first specific gene that if mutated could increase the risk of breast cancer. She named the gene BRCA1.
- 1991: Scientist Patrice Watson, PhD, and colleagues found that the BRCA1 gene was also linked to ovarian cancer. *
- 1994: Researchers discovered that the BRCA1 genetic mutation was strongly linked to Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.
- 1994: Scientists discovered a second gene linked to breast cancer – BRCA2.
- 1996: Moving BRCA-1 Forward – Mary-Claire King, PhD (above); Elaine Ostrander, PhD; and colleagues did the research needed to be able to study BRCA1 in animals. This work paved the way for future clinical trials in humans.*
- 1998: Oncologist and researcher Bernard Fisher, MD, and colleagues found that the chemotherapy drug tamoxifen decreased the incidence of breast cancer by nearly 50% in women who were at increased risk due to carrying a BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 mutation. *
- 2004: Scientist Susan Neuhausen, PhD, demonstrated that prophylactic bilateral mastectomy substantially reduced the incidence of breast cancer among women with mutations in the BRCA1 gene. *
- 2009: Oncologists Roger A. Greenberg, MD, PhD, and Susan Domchek, MD, found a way to determine (in mice) whether BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations will cause cancer.
- Future: The American Cancer Society continues to fund ongoing research into breast cancer risk. This is a major focus for our epidemiology team; they are studying the effect of exercise, weight, and diet on breast cancer risk. We are also funding researchers who are working on understanding the underlying biological mechanisms that cause breast cancer to develop and to spread. And we remain committed to improving treatment and funding research into how mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 impact the likelihood of responsiveness or resistance to new chemotherapy drugs.
*Denotes research funded by the American Cancer Society.
Learn more about the innovative approach to research by the American Cancer Society by visiting here.
Learn more about current breast cancer research grantees by visiting here.