The power of breast cancer research

By: Daniel F. Hayes, M.D.
Clinical Director, Breast Oncology Program
Stuart B. Padnos Professor in Breast Cancer Research
University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
6312 Cancer Center
1500 E. Medical Center Drive
Ann Arbor MI 48109-0942
Phone 734-615-6725
Fax 734-647-9271
Email: hayesdf@umich.edu

In 2016, more than 8,000 Michigan women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and nearly 1,500 will die from it. While these statistics would be even worse without the remarkable advances in research and treatment over the last 30 years, we can further cut that number by half or more over the next 10 years if we continue to fight tirelessly to find better treatments for patients.

October was breast cancer awareness month, a time when many organizations raised awareness and funds to further breast cancer research. Recently Susan G. Komen announced its Big Bold Goal of cutting breast cancer mortality in half by 2026. A part of this announcement was Susan G. Komen’s commitment to funding cutting-edge breast cancer research; $32.7 million in new breast cancer grants for 2016.

Here in Michigan, Susan G. Komen has funded 78 research grants since 1982, totaling almost $24 million invested into breast cancer research occurring here in our state. For example, this year the Henry Ford Health Center in Detroit received $600,000 from Susan G. Komen to compare gene expression in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) patient samples. This research will help determine if shared ancestry, population migration and reproductive patterns contribute to the development of specific subtypes of TNBC and better define TNBC subtypes in diverse populations. My laboratory at the University of Michigan is studying novel methods of detection and characterization of breast cancer cells in the bloodstream. Others at U-M are trying to identify the reasons for resistance to radiotherapy in inflammatory breast cancer and investigate better ways to treat it.

For those of us who are breast cancer researchers, and especially to those of us who care for patients with breast cancer, the re-affirmation of Susan G. Komen’s commitment to reducing breast cancer in the United States through doing more cutting-edge, life-saving research is critical. This research is necessary because it brings us a step closer to finding new treatments for the most aggressive forms of breast cancer that are killing 40,000 Americans each year. Through our research, we are working to find more effective diagnostic and treatment strategies that will help cure, or even prevent, this all-too-common disease.

I applaud the many agencies supporting breast cancer research, including our local affiliate, Susan G. Komen Michigan, for their efforts to reduce breast cancer mortality in Michigan. They continue to work tirelessly to attack breast cancer on all fronts, including research into the cures. Through this research, we can save more lives and reduce breast cancer risk for future generations.

Yes, we have made progress in fighting this terrible disease. However, as long as it continues to take its toll, we have lots of work to do. We all – doctors, researchers, survivors and supporters – will continue to come together to attack breast cancer on all fronts and keep pushing forward with cutting-edge, live-saving research.