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Breast Cancer Research Highlights

The American Cancer Society is helping people with breast cancer today in every community and is working tirelessly to find cures to end the disease tomorrow. Thanks to improvements in treatment and early detection, more and more women are surviving breast cancer.

While progress has clearly been made, breast cancer is still the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the U.S., other than skin cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer death in women. The Society’s research program has played a role in many of the advances that save lives from breast cancer today, and is relentlessly pursuing the answers that will save even more lives in the future.

The Society invests more in breast cancer research than any other cancer type.

From ACS Researchers

The American Cancer Society employs a staff of full-time researchers who relentlessly pursue the answers that help us understand how to prevent, detect, and treat cancer, including breast cancer.

The Society publishes Cancer Facts & Figures annually and Breast Cancer Facts & Figures every 2 years. These publications combined provide detailed analyses of cancer incidence and mortality trends in the U.S., as well as the latest information on risk factors, early detection, treatment, and current research. Key breast cancer findings include:

  • Death rates from breast cancer among women in the United States dropped 34% from 1990 to 2010.
  • An estimated 40,000 women and 430 men are expected to die of breast cancer in 2014.
  • An estimated 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed among women in the U.S. during 2014; about 2,360 new cases are expected in men.

The Society’s internal research team is also:

  • Analyzing data on an ongoing basis from Cancer Prevention Study II (CPS-II), which the Society began in 1982, to investigate linkages between lifestyle and breast cancer. For example, using data from CPS-II, American Cancer Society epidemiologists found that women who walk at least 7 hours per week lower their risk of developing breast cancer after menopause. And, data from CPS-II led Senior Epidemiologist Lauren Teras, Ph.D., to discover that losing 10 or more pounds and keeping it off for at least 5 years might reduce breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women.
  • Conducting a new multi-year cancer prevention study, CPS-3, to better understand ways to prevent cancer, including breast cancer.

ACS-Funded Research and Training Grants in Breast Cancer*

The Society also supports an Extramural Grants program that funds individual investigators engaged in cancer research or training at medical schools, universities, research institutes and hospitals throughout the U.S. Following rigorous and independent peer review, the most innovative research projects are selected for support.

Total ACS grants currently in effect addressing breast cancer: 204
Total ACS grant funding currently committed to breast cancer: $86,368,963

Spotlight on grantees: The following are some of the breast cancer investigators currently being funded by the American Cancer Society who are working to find the answers that will save more lives and better prevent, treat, and manage breast cancer.

close up of dropperNikki Cheng, PhD, at the University of Kansas Medical Center, is researching mechanisms responsible for invasive breast cancer. Specifically, Cheng is investigating whether a protein her lab discovered, called CCL2, plays a role in breast cancer progression and relapse. She hopes this research will lead to the development of new strategies for more effective diagnosis and treatment of invasive breast cancer.



Jennifer Koblinski 150x150Jennifer E. Koblinski, PhD, at Northwestern University, is researching brain metastases in breast cancer patients – a late complication, with few treatment options, that affects approximately 10% to 20% of breast cancer patients. She is investigating proteins that may be involved in the spread of breast cancer to the brain. Koblinski believes that identifying these biomarkers will lead to new ways to prevent breast cancer from spreading to the brain.


Sandra McAllister in lab 150x150Sandra McAllister, PhD, at Brigham and Women's Hospital, is studying why and how breast cancer relapses, which occurs in approximately 30% of patients. Her prior research in mice has shown that certain nutrients circulating in the blood stream can cause otherwise dormant cancer cells to form tumors. McAllister discovered that these nutrients appear to be released by tumor cells located in other parts of the body. Her continuing work is investigating this breast cancer “communication system.” She hopes the findings will lead to the development of drugs that can attack these lines of communication between tumors and provide better outcomes for breast cancer patients.

close up of test tubes Carlos L. Arteaga, MD, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, is researching new ways of treating breast cancer patients with the HER2/neu gene who do not respond to or become resistant to existing drugs. By gaining an understanding of how certain breast cancers resist anti-HER2/neu therapies, Arteaga hopes his findings will lead to the development of new combination HER2/neu treatment options for breast cancer patients.



Terry Badger 150x150Terry A. Badger, PhD, RN, FAAN, at the University of Arizona, is designing and testing an intervention aimed at helping improve the quality of life of Hispanics with breast cancer. Latinas have less access to psychosocial programs, and thus tend to suffer disproportionately from the emotional side effects of cancer. Badger’s intervention will help improve the quality of life of Latinas with breast cancer using telephone outreach that also incorporates the patient’s support partner, such as a family member or friend.


*Information current as of March 1, 2015. 

Other Ways ACS Fights Breast Cancer

In addition to conducting and funding breast cancer research, the American Cancer Society helps fight breast cancer through education, support services, and advocacy. Explore how the Society helps>