The Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Funding the Path to Prevention and Cure

breast cancer awareness

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), a nonprofit organization, is the highest-rated breast cancer organization in the United States, with an A+ rating from CharityWatch and four out of four stars from Charity Navigator. The organization has been a leader in breast cancer research ever since its founding in 1993.

Over the years, BCRF has raised more than half a billion dollars in support of research on tumor biology, heredity and ethnicity, lifestyle, and more, which has made a major impact on how breast cancer is viewed and treated. From 2018 to 2019 alone, BCRF awarded $63 million in annual grants to nearly 300 scientists from top universities and medical institutions around the globe. This makes it the largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer science worldwide.

Myra J. Biblowit, president and CEO of BCRF, summed up the organization's endeavors by saying, “Our goal is to accelerate the breakthroughs—bringing us closer to a cure—to speed up the progress that will improve survivorship and quality of life for breast cancer patients today."

BCRF commits 91 cents of every dollar directly to its mission.

Areas of Focus

BCRF's investigators have been a part of every major breakthrough in breast cancer in the areas of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. In addition, BCRF has a specific—and major—commitment to metastatic breast cancer research.

Estimates put the number of women in the United States currently living with metastatic breast cancer between 150,000 and 250,000. Their cancer is not curable; treatment, which is ongoing, is given to extend life. Each year, however, about 40,000 women with metastatic breast cancer die of the disease.

BCRF established the Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund, a multi-year international program dedicated to metastasis that is the first large-scale global effort to unravel the biology of metastasis, with more than $30 million earmarked to date. It is the largest privately funded project exclusively focused on metastasis in the world.

The Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund will make it possible for researchers, through a multi-year, multi-institutional international collaboration, to identify why there are breast cancers that spread faster than others and why some cancers respond to certain therapies when others don’t.

Expert-Driven Efforts

"BCRF is committed to bringing an end to breast cancer by advancing the world’s most promising research,” says Marc Hurlbert, PhD, chief mission officer of BCRF. This, he continues, is why BCRF identifies men and women in science and medicine that have a track record of success—giving them the funding, as well as the freedom, to develop their best ideas. This approach has been in place since the organization’s founding.

The BCRF’s scientific advisory board, which includes leading experts in breast cancer research, is active in informing and steering the grant-making direction and process. Board members invite laboratory scientists and clinical investigators considered to have the potential to make a significant contribution to the greater understanding of breast cancer to submit a proposal describing their intended research.

Dr. Clifford Hudis, former chairman of the BCRF scientific advisory board, summed up the feelings of the board by saying, “We always encourage our researchers to take bold and radical steps. If they have promising leads, we want them to follow them. We don’t expect everything to work, but we do expect there to be real advances in science. Our reward is in lives saved.”

BCRF Initiatives

In 2016, BCRF launched their drug research collaborative. Dr. Hurlbert describes this initiative as bridging the gap between academic investigators and access to drugs in development. He added, “Initially funded by a three-year, $15 million grant from Pfizer, researchers will also have access to the company’s broad portfolio of approved products and its pipeline of drugs still under development.”

Dr. Norton described the importance of the drug research collaborative saying, “It will encourage more creative, academic-driven research and give more patients access to clinical trials. We believe this unique approach has the potential to greatly accelerate and impact research progress and, ultimately, lead to more breakthrough discoveries.”

When Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke about the Cancer Moonshot in 2016 and called for commitment, cooperation, and collaboration from cancer research organizations to end cancer, BCRF graciously responded. It committed to doubling its annual cancer research funding and aims for a cumulative investment of $1 billion by the year 2021.

Staff and volunteers conduct fundraising activities; BCRF does not use the services of outside professional fundraisers. That said, income comes from corporate partners, individual donors, grants, and special events across the country.

BCRF History

Evelyn Lauder, a breast cancer survivor, and her friend Larry Norton, MD, believed that research was the way to find the answers for a breast cancer cure. Lauder chaired the board of the foundation from its inception in 1993 until her death in 2011.

Several years earlier, after being diagnosed and treated for early-stage breast cancer, Lauder assisted in the establishment of a breast and diagnostic center. The Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center can be found at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where Lauder also served as a board member. Dr. Norton is now BCRF's scientific director and the medical director of the Lauder Center.

Lauder and Alexandra Penney, then editor of SELF magazine, created the signature pink ribbon and launched the breast cancer awareness campaign within the Estée Lauder companies. Ribbons, along with self-exam instruction cards, were made available at Estée Lauder counters around the world. The pink ribbon and the instruction card helped to raise women’s consciousness about breast cancer.

Today, the pink ribbon is recognized worldwide as a symbol of the need for breast cancer awareness.

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Article Sources

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  • Breast Cancer Research Foundation. About BRCF. https://www.bcrf.org/about

  • Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Interview. Marc Hurlbert, PhD, Chief Mission Officer. June 9, 2016