Era of Hope Meeting and the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program
At the end of June, I attended the fifth Era of Hope meeting in Baltimore. This remarkable gathering, which takes place every two or three years, brings together the researchers who have been funded by the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program (DOD BCRP), along with scientists and breast cancer advocates from around the country.
To give you some background, the DOD BCRP came about as a direct result of NBCC's hard-fought efforts, as I have explained in past posts here and here. The renewal process, which we have to go through every year, is grueling and complex, but NBCC has made the continued funding for the DOD BCRP one of its top priorities.
We value the DOD BCRP so much because it focuses on innovative proposals that "push the envelope." I and many other breast cancer advocates have served on DOD BCRP panels to select which proposals receive funding. We offer the perspective of the primary stakeholder, the patient, and are true peers with the scientists. We often provide a "reality check," offering insights from the vantage point of breast cancer survivors. And over the years the scientists have grown to respect our views.
The program remains committed to breaking the mold. I have witnessed the DOD BCRP's willingness to back unconventional approaches that may ultimately provide important breakthroughs. Some of the most significant accomplishments in breast cancer research -- including the development of the drug trastuzumab (Herceptin®) - had their origins with this program. In the struggle to understand, fight, and ultimately defeat breast cancer, the DOD BCRP is one of the most effective tools in our arsenal.
The recent Era of Hope meeting was as exhilarating as its predecessors. The presentations offered a preview of the new ways breast cancer will be fought. Highlights included: a report of preliminary success treating some breast cancer patients with a vaccine containing the hTERT (human telomerase reverse transcriptase) protein; research on innovative ways to combat resistance to some of the major breast cancer treatments today; a multidisciplinary Center of Excellence focused on understanding and investigating prevention and treatment approaches to brain metastases, which affect about one third of women with metastatic breast cancer; and a look at molecular breast imaging, a much cheaper diagnostic alternative to MRI. We will soon be posting more on these topics and others from the Era of Hope.
I am extremely proud of the Era of Hope and all the DOD BCRP has accomplished. Through the DOD BCRP, $2.1 billion in federal funding has been allocated to fight breast cancer. It has attracted more than 29,000 research proposals since its inception in 1992. Its long history of success is a testament to all the effort and energy countless breast cancer advocates have invested in helping make the DOD BCRP possible, as well as the work that continues to keep the DOD BCRP going.