Welcome to the first edition of our new e-newsletter, Beyond a Cure. We look forward to providing you with monthly news and updates from the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation.
Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the American Association for Cancer Research’s (AACR) Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Meeting with Dixie Mills, MD, the Foundationâ€™s new Clinical Research Director, and Mitra Nejab and Julianne Tondre, two pre-med students at the University of California, Los Angeles, who have been interns at the Foundation for the past three years.
This AACR conference is the pre-eminent cancer prevention research meeting in the world. Not only were we there to hear the latest in cancer prevention, but we had the honor of being one of the 430 research teams that had been selected to present a poster at the meeting. (You non-researchers may be saying, â€œWhatâ€™s a â€œposter?â€ Itâ€™s actually exactly what it sounds like: a large, elaborate, detailed explanation of a research study and its findings.)
Our poster presented updated findings from our research on women who do not have breast cancer. It is my firm belief that we wonâ€™t be able to identify what conditions are necessary for precancerous cells to grow and invade the breastâ€”or how to stop themâ€”until we fully understand the anatomy and physiology of the normal breast. Now, thanks to research grants from the Avon Foundation, the S. Mark Taper Foundation, the American Breast Cancer Foundation, and generous support from our friends like you, our Foundation is using ductal lavage to move this area of research forward.
What have we found? Over the past year, more than 100 women have volunteered to be part of our study. So far, we have analyzed ductal fluid from 59 of these women (the rest is still in the lab being tested). In these women we were able to analyze fluid from at least three ducts, so weâ€™ve actually been able to study 168 ducts. This is important because one of our aims is see if all of a womanâ€™s ducts are the same.
When we examined the fluid, we analyzed the levels of protein and of three hormones: estrone sulfate, estradiol and progesterone. We found that, overall, ducts from the same breast appear to be no more similar than ducts from different women. Specifically, we found that estradiol and progesterone appeared to vary from duct to duct, whereas estrone sulfate did not. Further, we found that women who had not had children had lower estrone sulfate levels.
What we have found may not sound that dramatic, but it is actually quite remarkable. Because we know so little about the normal breast, we have just assumed that all of a womanâ€™s ducts would be the same. But now it appears that this may not be the case. Why does this matter? If this is true, it would mean that breast cancer might be more likely to develop in certain ducts than in others. This would influence how we think about how breast cancer develops. And, most importantly, if we can learn more about how to assess which ducts are headed for trouble, it could lead to new opportunities for breast cancer prevention. And that, as you know, is the ultimate goal of my work, and our Foundation.
At the AACR meeting, I had the opportunity not only to share and discuss our findings with some of the leaders in breast cancer prevention studies but also to watch our two interns, Mitra and Julianne, gain insight into the world of cancer research. As we flew back home, I couldnâ€™t help but reflect on the incredible experience we have had and the incredible peopleâ€”like youâ€”who generously support our Foundation and its work.
People often ask, where does the money go? It goes to our research. It goes to other researchers who are doing groundbreaking work through the pilot grants we provide. And it goes to something as simple and as significant as giving two promising young women the chance to pursue a dream: breast cancer research.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for all the support you have given us in 2006, and to ask you to consider making an end-of-the-year gift. Your contribution can be earmarked to areas of your specific interest, and it is fully deductible. I am more confident than ever that we are going to end breast cancer in our lifetimes. With your support, we can make that happen.
The Foundation staff and I wish you a joyous holiday and a peaceful New Year.
P.S. I encourage you to download the poster we presented at the AACR Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Meeting, and learn more about our groundbreaking research by clicking here.
Interested in taking part in our study? Volunteers must be over 18, live in the Los Angeles area, and not taking hormones. For more information, click here.