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Challenge highlights innovations in breast cancer prevention

On Wednesday, May 15, the California Breast Cancer Research Program (CBCRP) brought 10 finalists in the Global Challenge to Prevent Breast Cancer to San Francisco. Participants highlighted their novel breast cancer prevention research ideas in a live competition, with each allotted five minutes.

Renowned surgeon, breast cancer prevention advocate and author Dr. Susan Love delivered the keynote address, “The Amazing Breast.” In it, she emphasized the need for breast cancer research specifically focused on the human breast — the majority of breast cancer studies were based on animal breasts, which have significant biological differences — particularly breast ducts, where most cancers form. She encouraged participants to join the Army of Women, an email list and app that interested men and women can sign up for if they would like to participate in breast cancer studies.

Judges awarded two grand prize winners (one advocate and one researcher) as well as an Audience Choice Award, which was determined by votes from in-person and remote attendees. The winning concepts will inform more than $15 million in funding that CBCRP will devote to breast cancer prevention research over the next five years.

Check out an archived video of the event.

Safer ports for stronger communities

Nancy Buermeyer, M.S., is a senior policy strategist at Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, a science-based policy and advocacy organization working to prevent breast cancer by eliminating exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation. Her work focuses on the impact of California’s ports on breast cancer — how toxic pollution impacts women in communities near ports, who are disproportionally less affluent women of color — as well as the effectiveness of interventions.

Buermeyer’s presentation, “California Ports: Air Pollution Interventions and Breast Cancer Risk in Local Communities” won the Grand Prize for an Advocate. Her environmental justice-themed project seeks to build community partnerships through which researchers would bio-monitor women who live near ports to measure their exposure and the efficacy of proposed solutions. Advocates would then help communities to advocate on their behalf for methods that are effective in reducing cancer risk.

Empowering the next generation

Victoria Seewaldt, M.D., received the Grand Prize for a Researcher for her presentation, “Breast Cancer Prevention: Awareness, Prevention, Advocacy.” Seewaldt is a professor and chair of the City of Hope, a designated comprehensive cancer center and leading research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.

Seewaldt’s work focuses on addressing breast cancer by empowering young women before and during puberty — at 8 to 13 years old. Through public school-based programs, participants learn to avoid exposing themselves to carcinogens, such as those found in beauty products and industrial pollution. Program graduates move on to mentoring younger women, teaching them to protect and advocate for themselves.

At the same time, oncology researchers monitor participants’ saliva on an ongoing basis to measure the DNA damage that occurs through carcinogenic exposure. The results will be used to better understand children’s risk, forecast breast incidences of breast cancer and pursue treatment to mitigate toxins’ effects.

An herbal boost for prevention

The Audience Choice Award went to Michele Atlan, vice president of the Breast Cancer Care & Research Fund, which works to eradicate breast cancer through education, research and advocacy. Her presentation, “Spice it Up: A New Way to Use Curcumin,” focused on a holistic approach to breast cancer prevention. To engage young women in active breast cancer prevention, Atlan proposed creating disposable breast pads containing curcumin — a yellow pigment that is extracted from the cooking spice turmeric and has been shown to prevent tumor cells from forming, growing and spreading.

Atlan, who presented in the advocate category, proposed creating breast pads from biotechnology-enhanced fabrics that would allow the content of the pads to permeate the skin in the breast area. To make them more appealing to women, the pads could also include skin-enhancing beauty supplements, such as biotin, collagen and green tea. The pads would give women of all ages the ability to enhance the appearance of their breasts while also exposing them to an herbal remedy.

About the California Breast Cancer Research Program

CBCRP is administered by the Research Grants Program Office within UCOP. CBCRP is the largest state-funded breast cancer research effort in the nation. It aims to prevent and eliminate breast cancer by leading innovation in research, communication and collaboration in the California scientific and lay communities.

Questions? Contact CBCRP Program Officer Nick Anthis.

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