Published October 30, 2013 By Dr. Susan Love
Happy 5th birthday to the Army of Women! Ten years ago, I started talking about my great idea to wean scientists from doing all research on cell lines and lab animals to working on women. Women are very different from most laboratory animals and most animals do not naturally develop breast cancer! When I told scientists that they should be studying women, they told me that they didn’t know how to find them. “I do!” was my reply.
This was what drove the concept of the Army of Women, ready to respond and participate in research not only for treatment but more importantly, for figuring out the cause of breast cancer. For five years we tried to raise the money to start, then the Avon Foundation for Women stepped up to the plate with initial funding. In October of 2008, the Love/Avon Army of Women was launched on the Today Show. We now have almost 375,000 women and men who have signed up to receive our calls to action. Researchers who try the Army of Women as a referral source are blown away by the enthusiastic response you give them.
Since we started, we have successfully completed recruitment for 60 studies and have assisted at least 20 more! In fact, researchers for six studies decided to increase the number of participants because recruitment had been so easy using the Army of Women. During the past five years, you have signed up to give blood, breast tissue, nipple aspirate fluid, milk and urine for a variety of studies. Here are some great examples of your dedication to making research happen:
– The Jewish Women’s Breast and Ovarian Cancer Study needed 2,000 women with and without breast cancer to spit in a cup and mail it in for genetic analysis. Within seven months, over 4,637 of you responded that you were interested and were passed on to the researchers.
– A study looking at bacteria and viruses in breast tissue needed 100 women with and without breast cancer to give us nipple aspirate fluid. We had 211 potential subjects respond within three and a half months, allowing us to rapidly close the study.
– And then there was the Environmental Exposures and Breast Cancer study that required 1,000 women without a history of breast cancer who were willing to get their mammography reports and send urine samples. Within 26 hours, we had 2,580 potential subjects to pass on to the investigators.
– And most exciting is the study looking at why women who work the night shift might get more breast cancer. It required women to undergo core biopsies of normal breast tissue for analysis. This study has taken us almost three years to find night shift workers who fit the criteria, but I am happy to say that as we celebrate our fifth anniversary, the final seven candidates will undergo their core biopsies this week. The researcher had only ever done work on rats and we have stuck with her until we got her all the specimens she needed. Now, we will eagerly await her findings and look forward to sharing them with you.
Our biggest disappointment has not been with the public but with the scientific community, which has clung to its old models in laboratory animals because it is easier and it is what they have always done. This led us to launch our own HOW Study to track women and men with and without breast cancer over time with online questionnaires in an effort to uncover some new risk factors of getting the disease and secrets about keeping breast cancer at bay. More than 44,000 of you have signed up and we are going strong. Watch for our first data regarding the collateral damage of treatment in the spring!
I firmly believe that the only way we are going to find the cause and end breast cancer is through research. The Dr. Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research is dedicated to conducting, facilitating, and inspiring research and with an Army of Women behind us, how can we fail? In honor of our fifth anniversary, I challenge each of you to recruit five new members to the AOW. They have to be over 18, with and without breast cancer and willing to receive emails from us regarding studies needing participants. As their first study, they can join the HOW Study and fill out periodic questionnaires about their health, family history and lifestyle enabling us to explore the possible cause and ways to prevent the disease.
Want do to more? Please consider making a gift to support our research. If every member of the Army of Women gave us just $5.00, we could take the Army of Women program to the next level by expanding our outreach and inspiring researchers to double the number of studies focused on the cause and prevention of breast cancer.
Your continued participation and generous support is the best fifth birthday present we could receive, and my hope is that it will enable us to fast-track research so that we can, in turn, give you the gift of a future without breast cancer.