BCRF: Funding the Path to Prevention and Cure

Researcher in Lab. Getty Images

Research is an ongoing critical need if breast cancer prevention and cure are to become realities. Breast cancer research is not only supported by federal agencies but by nonprofit organizations as well.

Whether government or privately funded, breast cancer research needs to be transparent from the raising of funds to support research to reporting on research outcomes. Donors have the right to know how their donations will be used to further breast cancer research.They also have the right to learn the outcome of the research they supported.

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), a nonprofit organization, is recognized as meeting the criteria for transparency. It is the highest rated breast cancer organization in the United States with an A+ rating from CharityWatch and four out of four stars from Charity Navigator,the two primary charity watchdog agencies.

The organization continues to be a leader in breast cancer research ever since its founding. BCRF investigators have been a part of every major breakthrough in breast cancer in the areas of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.

BCRF is the largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research worldwide. Over the years, it has raised more than half a billion dollars in support of research that has made a major impact on how we view and treat breast cancer. Staff and volunteers conduct fundraising activities; BCRF does not use the services of outside professional fundraisers.

Income comes from corporate partners, individual donors, grants, and special events across the country.

In 2016, BCRF is investing $57 million dollars to support the research of 254 scientists in 13 countries across five continents. BCRF commits 91 cents of every dollar directly to its mission.

“BCRF is committed to being the end of breast cancer by advancing the world’s most promising research,” said Marc Hurlbert, PhD, Chief Mission Officer of BCRF, describing the organization’s mission.

Dr. Hurlbert shared that BCRF funds people, not projects. All researchers are vetted. BCRF identifies men and women in science and medicine that have a track record of success in research—giving them the funding, as well as the freedom, to develop their most promising ideas. This approach has been in place since the organization’s founding.

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board, which includes leading experts in breast cancer research, is active in informing and steering the grant making direction and process. Board members invite laboratory scientists and clinical investigators, who are considered to have the potential to make a significant contribution to the greater understanding of breast cancer, to submit a proposal describing their proposed research. The board awards grants annually. Those receiving grants are required to submit a mid-year progress report that demonstrates responsible use of grant funding.

Dr. Clifford Hudis, former Chairman of the BCRF Scientific Advisory Board, summed up the feelings of the Board by saying, “We always encourage our researchers to take bold and radical steps.

If they have promising leads, we want them to follow them. We don’t expect everything to work, but we do expect there to be real advances in science. Our reward is in lives saved.”

Areas of Focus

In addition to focusing on tumor biology, heredity and ethnicity, lifestyle and prevention, and treatment and survivorship, BCRF has a major commitment to metastatic breast cancer research.

Estimates put the number of women in the United States currently living with metastatic breast cancer between 150,000 and 250,000. Their cancer is not curable; treatment, which is ongoing, is given to extend life. Each year, about 40,000 women with metastatic breast cancer die of the disease.

BCRF has allocated $31 million to develop a greater understanding of breast metastasis through a multi-year, multi-institutional international collaboration. The Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund will make it possible for researchers to identify why there are breast cancers that spread faster than others and why some cancers respond to certain therapies while others don’t.

History of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Evelyn Lauder, a breast cancer survivor, and her friend Dr. Larry Norton believed that research was the way to finding the answers to a cure for breast cancer. They founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 1993. Mrs. Lauder chaired the board of the foundation until her death in 2011.

Several years earlier, after being diagnosed and treated for early-stage breast cancer, Mrs. Lauder assisted in the establishment of a breast and diagnostic center. The Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center is at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where Mrs. Lauder served as a board member.

Mrs. Lauder and Alexandra Penney, then editor of SELF magazine, created the signature pink ribbon and launched the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign within the Estée Lauder Companies. Ribbons, along with self-exam instruction cards, were made available at Estée Lauder counters around the world. The pink ribbon and the instruction card helped to raise women’s consciousness about breast cancer. Today, the pink ribbon is recognized worldwide as a symbol of the need for breast cancer awareness.

New Initiatives

This year, BCRF launched the Drug Research Collaborative. Dr. Hurlbert describes this initiative as bridging the gap between academic investigators and access to drugs in development. He added, “Initially funded by a three-year, $15 million grant from Pfizer, researchers will also have access to the company’s broad portfolio of approved products and its pipeline of drugs still under development.”

Larry Norton, MD, BCRF Scientific Director and Medical Director of the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center described the importance of the Drug Research Collaborative saying, “It will encourage more creative, academic-driven research and give more patients access to clinical trials. We believe this unique approach has the potential to greatly accelerate and impact research progress and, ultimately, lead to more breakthrough discoveries.” 

When Vice President Biden recently spoke about the Cancer Moonshot and called for commitment, cooperation, and collaboration from cancer research organizations to end cancer, BCRF graciously responded. It committed to doubling its annual cancer research funding and aims for a cumulative investment of $1 billion by the year 2021.

Myra J. Biblowit, President and CEO of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, summed up the organization's endeavors by saying, “Our goal is to accelerate the breakthroughs—bringing us closer to a cure—to speed up the progress that will improve survivorship and quality of life for breast cancer patients today."


Breast Cancer Research Foundation.Interview.Marc Hurlbert, PhD.,Chief Mission Officer. June 9, 2016

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