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Making Breast Cancer Research About Quality Not Quantity

We pour millions of dollars each year into breast cancer research, but until we get better at targeting that research, we’ll never find a true cure.

There is no question that decades of breast cancer research has reshaped our thinking about this disease. But despite all we now know, we have yet to answer the most critical question: How does the disease start? And until we have that answer, we will never be able to achieve the ultimate goal of ending breast cancer once and for all.

We do a lot of research in the lab on cancer cells and in mice. That research can help lead to new treatments, but it cannot help us fully understand the human breast and why it develops malignancies. Millions of dollars have been poured into breast cancer research, yet we still do not know the anatomy and distribution of the milk ducts within the breast, which is where breast cancers start. That’s why I decided my research must focus on the breast ducts. If we can’t understand how tumors start in these ducts, we will never learn how to prevent them from developing.

It is also clear to me that if we don’t encourage and facilitate breast cancer research in people who get the disease, and help researchers find the people who want to take part in these studies, we’d continue to be really good at curing breast cancer in mice (who never really get the disease) but not in the people who actually get it.

We also have to look more closely at the people who are getting breast cancer. And by that, I mean looking at race, gender, risk factors, inherited genetic mutations that increase risk, and the genomic mutations that push their tumors to grow. There is no question that breast cancer impacts people of different races and ethnicities at different rates. We need to put more effort into understanding why. We need to stop funding research that asks the same question in different ways and put our support behind the research that will answer the questions that will move us forward.

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