For years Iâ€™ve been frustrated that very little research has focused on finding the cause of breast cancer and how to prevent it. When I spoke with scientists about why this was true, I heard a common theme: itâ€™s easier to do research on rats and mice and cells than to do it on women.Â In fact, a scientist once said to me, â€œCanâ€™t you do that study on rats? Women are so messy!â€
It became clear to me that the only way we were going to make progress in understanding breast cancer in women (it actually does not occur naturally in animals; researchers make them get cancer) was to get scientists to study human tissue and real women. This, in turn, meant figuring out a way that we could make that easy for them. And thatâ€™s what led me to think of the Army of Womenâ€”a group of volunteers who are willing to participate in research with the scientists who want to do it.
After years of presenting this idea to funding organizations only to have it rejected, I found the perfect partner for this big project in the Avon Foundation. As most of you know, the Avon Foundation is a pioneer in funding breast cancer research in women, and they immediately â€œgot it!â€ Now after a year of planning, this visionâ€”an Army of Womenâ€” is becoming a reality!
Our goal is to recruit one million healthy women of all ages and ethnicities, including breast cancer survivors and women who are at high risk for developing breast cancer.Â These women will be presented with opportunities to be part of specific research projects that need human tissue or fluids (blood, urine, breast fluid, saliva, etc.) and/or information.
Hereâ€™s how it will work:
You join the Army of Women by registering online at www.armyofwomen.org. To register, you provide your contact information, year of birth, zip code, and ethnicity.
Scientists will submit project proposals for which they need volunteers. Before a research project is accepted, it will undergo a rigorous scientific, safety, and ethical review. In addition, all researchers who recruit volunteers through the Army of Women will agree to follow strict confidentiality guidelines.
Once a study has been accepted, Army staff will send out an email to Army members describing the research project, eligibility criteria, and what is involved. If you are interested and eligible, you RSVP to let us know youâ€™d like to take part. The scientist will present the project on a webcast so that all the potential volunteers will get a chance to hear about the project and ask questions. We then let you know what you need to do next. This might mean going on to a website to complete a questionnaire or going to a research center to donate the blood, urine, breast fluid, or breast tissue sample the researchers need for their study. Thatâ€™s it!Â Once their studies are completed, the scientists will again participate in a live webcast to explain what they have discovered. A true partnership!
As you might imagine, I was the first person to join the Army! My friends and family members are ready to sign up. So, too, are many of the researchers I know. For years, theyâ€™ve been telling me that they canâ€™t do their studies because they canâ€™t find the women to take part. Removing this obstacle for them is a dream come true!
Many of you have raised money to fight this disease. Others of you have walked, run, or gone to Washington, DC, to advocate for more research dollars. Weâ€™d never have gotten to where we are today if you hadnâ€™t done this work. Now, YOU can take the next step and be a part of the research itself.
Please join me in this revolutionary new initiative. Sign up on October 1 for the Love/Avon Army of Women.
Together, we can go Beyond a Cure and end this disease once and for all.