Research Benefitting from Private Funding: Metastatic Breast Cancer

We’re touching on another area of research benefitting from private funding, like that raised through Obliteride. Together in 2015, we raised $2.65 million for cancer research at Fred Hutch. Fred Hutch investigators turn over ‘every stone’ in an effort to learn as much as possible about cancer, so we can move swiftly to cure it. That’s what we’re about: curing cancer.

In 2015 we launched a 10-mile ride around Lake Union. The funds raised during that ride were designated to fuel cancer research common to women. To that end, we’d like to focus on some early research in the areas of Metastatic Breast Cancer.

We have seen legendary advancements in the understanding of breast cancer in the past few decades. As the leader of the Women’s Health Initiative, Fred Hutch investigators reported that post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy was causing breast cancer. Adjustments in protocols are now reducing breast cancer rates by about 20,000 cases a year in the U.S. alone. Additionally, we continually read about new recommendations for early screening/detection and about new understanding of which treatment plans map best to which types of breast cancer. For this we’re all thankful.

Then there’s metastatic breast cancer. Over 300,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year, with nearly ¼ of those being considered non-invasive, early forms of breast cancer[1]. Twenty to thirty percent of early stage breast cancer diagnoses will progress on to metastatic breast cancer[2]. Those with metastatic breast cancer have a median survival of about three years and sadly, we haven’t seen a significant change in over two decades[3]. What’s happening between step 1—diagnosis and early treatment—and step 2—terminal relapse?

That’s what Dr. Cyrus Ghajar is exploring. He’s staring deep into the body, at terminal nodes of blood vessels. It’s thought that cancer cells may lie dormant there. The challenge is that ‘dormant’ is not good enough. We want permanent obliteration.

Something about these dormant cells is puzzling. They sit there, unreachable by the medication circulating in the blood stream, yet somehow ‘wake-able’ to a state where they can again wreak havoc.

Dr. Ghajar wants answers. Is there a way to find, reach and obliterate those cells forever? What causes them to wake? If we knew when/why/how they woke up, could we intercept them before they have the chance to reignite cancer?

These are complicated questions and their answers, while telling and vital, may lead to more questions before they lead to an administrable product. Early stage investigations like this rely on private funding for securing resources and purchasing lab materials, computers and other tools or services.

Thankfully Obliteride riders are raising the funds to keep this type of work progressing.

Click here to learn more Dr. Ghajar’s work.

[3] Department of Defense breast Cancer Research Program, September 2014

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