How is the ACS Involved in Breast Cancer Research?
The American Cancer Society (ACS) is involved in the fight against breast cancer in many areas. Through its extramural research grants program, as of September 14, 2010 the Society was funding 226 research projects being conducted by an elite group of scientists. These projects were chosen through a rigorous peer review and selection process and all of them relate to breast cancer. This funding amounts to $121.2 million research dollars. (Most of these projects extend over several years.) A few areas of research now being investigated by American Cancer Society grantees are:
- Reasons for breast cancer treatment differences between African American and white women, including differences in delays in starting treatment, less-frequent treatment, and choice of mastectomy over lumpectomy in African American women
- Exploring new breast cancer treatments that target immune system cells
- Identifying and cataloging ribonucleic acids (RNAs) that are characteristic of normal and breast cancer tissues, with the goal of generating an "RNA fingerprint" of breast cancer. This may prove useful predicting breast cancer disease progression, detecting breast cancer at an early stage, and may also allow for more effective treatments.
- Evaluating factors that influence mammogram interpretation by radiologists. This project, co-funded with the National Cancer Institute, was designed in direct response to the Institute of Medicine’s report "Improving Breast Imaging Quality Standards," which highlighted the need to decrease variability in mammography interpretation in the United States and identified issues stalling the reauthorization of the Mammography Quality Standards Act.
The Society also conducts in-house, population-based studies of breast cancer and does surveillance research to monitor long-term trends and statistics. Using information collected from more than 600,000 women in the Cancer Prevention Study II (CPS II), ACS scientists have studied the influence of many factors, including alcohol use, diethylstilbestrol (DES), estrogen replacement therapy, a family history of cancer, smoking, obesity, and spontaneous abortion on the risk of dying from breast cancer. In a substudy of the CPS-II called the CPS-II Nutrition Cohort, which includes 97,786 women, the influence of the same risk factors as well as dietary factors on the risk of developing breast cancer are examined. Researchers at the Society are collaborating with investigators at many other institutions to identify common and rare genetic alterations which might contribute to breast cancer risk.
ACS scientists have studied the influence of mammography on breast cancer prognostic factors, conducted long-term follow-up of major breast cancer screening studies, and recommended breast cancer surveillance strategies that can be applied at local and national levels.
In addition, the ACS Behavioral Research Center is conducting a Study of Cancer Survivors (SCS) to examine the factors tied to a good quality of life after a breast cancer diagnosis. Specific areas of interest include identifying the unmet needs of cancer survivors, the use of complementary therapies, and the needs of minority women with breast cancer.
Working with other organizations
The Society has a strong advocacy program through which it works with other organizations, such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the National Hispanic Medical Association, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, to name a few. The Society also has programs like the CDC supported Circle of LifeSM initiative which is aimed at reaching out to and partnering with American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities. With an emphasis on reaching the medically underserved, Circle of Life enables the Society to work with and through AIAN community-based groups to address the needs of patients, caregivers, and families across the cancer continuum. Collaborative relationships and partnerships like these accomplish greater goals than these organizations could achieve on their own.
The ACS devotes significant resources to the education of the public and health care professionals, too. Public outreach and educational partnerships with organizations such as the National Education Association and AARP encourage more women to take advantage of mammograms and clinical breast exams, and increases breast self-awareness.
The American Cancer Society is collaborating with Aetna, Inc. to develop surveillance research with Aetna members who request BRCA testing. This surveillance project has the potential to affect millions of women, beyond the membership of the healthplan by learning more about patients' cancer risk assessment experiences, BRCA testing decisions, and other elements provided in the context of decision support. The research specifically but not exclusively samples African American women. The information obtained in this survey will be invaluable to informing the development of clinician and member decision support tools and would also help to inform strategy about improving the evidence-based use of this technology.
Advocating for more research dollars
The American Cancer Society and its non-profit, non-partisan advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM (ACS CAN), are involved in advocacy efforts at both the federal and state levels. These efforts are to increase access to quality breast cancer screenings, diagnostic services and treatment, and care for all women; increase government funding for breast cancer research; and be a voice for the concerns of breast cancer patients and survivors.
Last Revised: 08/24/2010