As we adjourned the 5th International Symposium on the Intraductal Approach to Breast Cancer on Sunday, March 4, the excitement in the air was palpable. Over the past four days we had heard researchers update us on their study findings, taken part in mind-expanding discussions on the anatomy of the breast and the development of breast cancer, and proven to ourselves many times over that the intraductal approach truly holds the potential for bringing us to the beginning of the end of breast cancer.

Within the next few months, we will have a full conference report available for you on our website. What I want to tell you about now are some conference highlights.

The Symposium excels in bringing together people from many fields who are interested in eradicating breast cancer by getting to where it starts, in the breast ducts. That’s why I’m enthused not only by the formal reports but by the conversations in the hallways and coffee room, where ideas fly! I love the fact that we brought a researcher doing ultrasound on lactating women together with a researcher who is studying the anatomy of the nipple because she is interested in nipple-sparing mastectomies. Neither of them would have thought that they had anything in common, yet their research dovetailed perfectly and both came away knowing more than they had before. The pathologist from Sweden who has been writing that all breast cancer starts in one milk duct listened with amazement to the talks about putting a tiny little scope into a duct and said, “This is music to my ears!” The only two surgeons in India and Turkey who perform ductoscopy spent hours on planes to come to the United States to share their experiences and learn from others.

In an attempt to fertilize the intraductal field, the Foundation gives out pilot grants to scientists exploring new areas of research. But we don’t just give them money. We give each researcher the opportunity to present their ideas to the whole meeting and to get feedback from the audience—a process incredibly valuable and logical, yet unique in the grantmaking field. This year, the Foundation gave out $100,000 in research grants to 12 exciting research studies. This research, which will take place over the next two years, will expand our knowledge of the anatomy of the breast, explore potential biomarkers in nipple aspirate fluid for early cancer diagnosis, and investigate new methods of looking at and into the breast ducts—the place where all breast cancer begins. You can learn more about the 12 researchers we funded and their individual projects here.

At each Symposium, previous recipients of pilot grants provide updates on their research findings. I was thrilled to learn that one of the researchers from Hawaii was able to use the research she conducted with our small grant to get a large grant from the National Institutes of Health. A researcher from Italy connected with a researcher from Missouri at the 2005 Symposium and told the audience that that meeting had led to three published papers over the past two years. After hearing one pilot grant applicant discuss her project, an established scientist leaned over to me and said, “This is the most important thing you do!” I could not agree more. I only wish we had had more money to give.

At our Dinner Award Gala, the Foundation gave out two important awards. We were pleased to present our Excellence in Research Award to Ed Sauter, MD, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and a pioneer in the field of intraductal research who has done more research on nipple aspirate fluid than anyone else currently in the field. And we were honored to present our Humanitarian Award to Marc Hurlbert, PhD, and the Avon Foundation, which has made breast cancer a focus of its grantmaking. Over the past 14 years, the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade has raised and awarded more than $450 million in 50 countries worldwide for awareness and education; screening and diagnosis; access to treatment; support services; and scientific research.

A new addition to the conference this year was the opportunity for attendees to observe ductosocpy and ductal lavage with ultrasound. Four of our wonderful Foundation volunteers served as live models for demonstrations on how to find, ultrasound, and scope the breast ducts. I was amazed by the number of attendees who observed these demonstrations and who later told me that what they saw proved to them not only how viable this approach was, but how useful it could be in their own research. In keeping with our motto that all research is collaboration between the subjects and the researchers, we invited the volunteers to attend the conference and the Gala dinner. The interactions they had with the other attendees was fantastic, and they heard repeatedly how grateful everyone was that they were willing to be a part of the Symposium. Thank you, volunteers!
The Symposium always includes a special panel discussion designed to give the public a chance to meet some of the researchers and to hear about the work they presented at the conference. I was incredibly impressed by the community members who attended. The questions you asked of our panelists—Gillian Mitchell, MD, of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center in Melbourne, Australia; Saraswati Sukumar, PhD, of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Bonnie King, PhD, of Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, and Edward Sauter, MD—demonstrated how far the public has come in its understanding of how breast cancer develops and the challenges we face in ending this disease.

I also want to thank all the sponsors of the Symposium, who made this event possible: American Cancer Society, California Breast Cancer Research Program, Acueity, Genomic Health, Avon Foundation, NeoMatrix, National Institute of Health, Aviva, and Windy Hill Medical.

As I told everyone in attendance at the Symposium, the Gala Dinner, and the panel discussion: “I’m in a hurry!” All too often, research conducted at universities and by our national institutions moves at a glacial pace—and I’m far too impatient! I want to take the broad leaps forward that can catapult us to the next steps in our understanding of how breast cancer begins, and how to end it. My personal goal—and the goal of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation—is to serve as the catalyst that will move us forward as quickly as possible to the day when we eradicate breast cancer. Please join us!

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