California Breast Cancer Research Program Recruits National Experts to Lead Special Research Initiatives
Five-year, $18m effort will investigate the effects of the environment and lifestyle on breast cancer and the reasons why some groups of women bear a greater burden of the disease.
May 10, 2006Oakland, CAThe California Breast Cancer Research Program (CBCRP) has recruited an outstanding steering committee of experts from across the nation to guide its Special Research Initiatives—a five-year effort to gain understanding of and develop strategies to investigate the role of the environment in breast cancer and the reasons why some patients bear a greater burden of the disease. These questions, if answered, could lead to major progress against breast cancer.
Olufunmilayo I. Olopade, M.D., recently received a MacArthur Fellowship for her work translating findings on the molecular genetics of breast cancer in African American and African women into innovative clinical practices in the United States and abroad. She is an oncologist and the founding director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago. CBCRP Director Marion H.E. Kavanaugh-Lynch describes Dr. Olopade as “a broad thinker who is highly regarded by basic scientists. Part of her role on the steering committee will be to keep the Special Research Initiatives connected to basic science.” Dr. Olopade applies her research findings at clinics in Chicago and West Africa.
Susan Shinagawa is widely recognized as the nation’s leading Asian American cancer and chronic pain advocate and activist. She also served on the CBCRP’s first advisory council and was the council’s second chair. Says Dr. Kavanaugh-Lynch, “Susan was part of the brains behind our Community Research Collaboration awards,” another CBCRP research effort that broke new ground. She is also the co-founder of the Intercultural Cancer Council, a national organization committed to eliminating the unequal burden of breast cancer.
David R. Williams, Ph.D., is an expert in research into how racial discrimination affects heart disease and other health conditions. “The CBCRP is fortunate to be able to include him on the Special Research Initiatives steering committee,” says Dr. Kavanaugh-Lynch. “He will bring an outside perspective to help speed progress against breast cancer analogous to progress that has been made against other diseases, where he has been a leader.” Dr. Williams is based at the University of Michigan, where he is a Senior Associate Research Scientist at the Survey Research Center, and an Associate Professor of Sociology.
Julia G. Brody, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Massachusetts. Dr. Brody is the principal investigator of an award-winning study to determine whether chemicals that pollute air and water—and which are also found in pesticides, detergents, plastics, and cosmetics—cause breast cancer. “She is one of the world’s experts on breast cancer and the environment, and she’s doing cutting-edge research,” says Dr. Kavanaugh-Lynch. Dr. Brody’s ongoing Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environmental Study includes 2,100 women and is now in its tenth year.
Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., wrote Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment, which presents cancer as a human rights issue. The book was the first to combine data on toxic releases with data from U.S. cancer registries. It garnered widespread praise from international media. “She is a biologist by training and her science background makes her incredibly well-informed,” says Dr. Kavanaugh-Lynch. “She’s also an environmental activist with a national reputation.”
Dr. Kavanaugh-Lynch will also serve on the steering committee, which is drawn mostly from outside California to prevent conflicts of interest. The committee is now beginning to determine how best to leverage Special Research Initiative funds to make the biggest impact on breast cancer. “This will be no easy task,” says Dr. Kavanaugh-Lynch, “because the questions we have chosen to investigate are difficult to research. We want to fund research that answers scientific questions, and that also points to real-world solutions that will lessen the suffering from breast cancer.”
One goal for the steering committee is to devise research strategies based on a new funding approach, because the current research funding model—providing funds for research into questions developed by the investigators themselves—has not led rapidly enough to progress. Another goal is the development of new research strategies that could be implemented not only by the CBCRP, but also by other California organizations. The CBCRP envisions catalyzing a coordinated statewide effort to explore innovative ideas and new theories; leverage California’s unique and diverse geographic, population, and research resources; and undertake critical studies that significantly move breast cancer research forward.
The planning process for the Special Research Initiative includes opportunities for the public to give input through a series of statewide public meetings. More information is available in the Special Research Initiatives Strategy Plan at the CBCRP website (www.CABreastCancer.org).
About the CBCRP
The mission of the California Breast Cancer Research Program is to eliminate breast cancer by leading innovation in research, communication, and collaboration in the California scientific and lay communities. Created by the State Legislature in 1993, the California Breast Cancer Research Program (CBCRP) is the largest state-funded breast cancer research program in the nation and is administered by the University of California, Office of the President. To date, the CBCRP has awarded 672 grants to 73 scientific institutions and community entities, totaling more than $164 million for research in California to prevent, treat, and cure breast cancer. Grants from the CBCRP fill gaps not traditionally funded by other research programs to jump-start new areas of investigation that push the boundaries of research and foster new collaborations. The CBCRP is funded through the voluntary tax check-off program on personal income tax form 540, a portion of the state tobacco tax, and individual contributions; 95 percent of all funds go to research and education. For more information call 888 313-2277, or visit www.CABreastCancer.org.