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September 24, 2019

Searching for the next breakthrough in breast cancer care

By GE Healthcare Life Sciences

The organization fighting for a world without breast cancer and the patients vouching for their success

“We will not rest while breast cancer continues to affect lives around the world.” Myra Biblowit, President & CEO of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) photographed by Leigh Beckett.

Biblowit is focused on the organization’s mission: to accelerate breakthroughs that bring us closer to a cure and speeding up the progress to improve survivorship and quality of life for breast cancer patients today. BCRF-funded investigators have been involved in almost all of the major discoveries around the early detection and treatment of the disease.

While survivorship is up, Biblowit and the BCRF team recognize that there is still much to learn including when it comes to personalizing care and reducing overtreatment. In 2018, the BCRF funded the TAILORx study which reported findings demonstrating that 70% of women with some early stage cancers can avoid chemotherapy. “The findings of this study have the potential to substantially improve patient care by providing the right treatment for women who benefit the most,” explains Biblowit.

BCRF also focuses on understanding metastasis, when cancer spreads from the breast to other parts of the body—arguably one of the most urgent issues in cancer research today. They are currently funding a project looking at sequence the DNA of over 1,000 patients to understand metastasis, the largest study of its kind in the world today.

Dr. Dorraya El-Ashry, Chief Scientific Officer at the BCRF (Above: Dr. El-Ashry photographed by Patrick Lyn) explains why this is so important:

“Most breast cancer deaths, if not virtually all of them, are caused by metastatic disease. We need to better understand metastasis and this study will hopefully help us find ways to prevent and treat it. This could change the very nature of breast cancer, and indeed, all cancers.”

As the largest private funder of breast cancer research in the world, BCRF splits its investments across the entire spectrum of research: prevention, tumor biology, genetics, treatment, survivorship and metastasis. Their philosophy: fund people, not projects.

“We believe that scientists should have the freedom to explore their most innovative, daring ideas—high risk projects that have the potential to yield high rewards,” said Biblowit.

All of these exciting projects rely on the continued support of the BCRF’s corporate partners. For the third year running during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, GE Healthcare will donate $1 to BCRF for every purchase of its Whatman products with the goal of raising $125,000, a 25% increase over GE Healthcare Life Science’s 2018 contribution. If they reach their target, this would fund approximately 2,500 hours of research.

“We are excited that in our third year of running the Think Pink campaign we are bringing the initiative to Australia and New Zealand, increasing the reach of awareness and hopefully raising more for research,” said Frank Orso, Biopharma Modality Leader in Australia and New Zealand for GE Healthcare Life Sciences.

Purpose driving action

The team behind Think Pink have a strong affinity to the campaign as GE Healthcare Life Sciences’ Whatman filtration products are critical components in helping breast cancer researchers. These devices, papers and membranes can help researchers isolate fatty cells from breast tissue samples to better understand how breast cancer cells metastasize, as well as differentiate a cancer cell from surrounding healthy tissue.

For many, supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month is personal. Carmen Marshall is a Consumables Product Sales Specialist at GE Healthcare Life Sciences in Virginia, United States. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.

“Prior to my diagnosis, I saw my doctor without making a single note. Now I went to every appointment with a binder organized into sections: lab reports, radiology reports, questions, nutrition and physical activity. Living beyond a diagnosis of breast cancer is an ongoing effort and my journey continues until today. A good part of my life now is providing education and helping women advocate for their health.”

Janelle Bryce works as a Field Marketing Leader for GE Healthcare Life Sciences in Australia and New Zealand. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2012.

“I remember sitting in the doctor’s office and sobbing with my husband. From then on, my life was surrounded by doctors, nurses, hospitals and drugs. Then one day, seven months later, my treatment was over and everything just stopped. I had made it through and was going back to work. I believe research is the only way we will get an understanding of why each type occurs and how best to treat it.”

Biblowit hopes that the era of fear that these patients experienced will soon come to an end. “We are on the cusp of ending breast cancer as a life-threatening disease and it is only with support from partners like GE Healthcare Life Sciences that we will achieve our mission. It is the collective strength of our partners that will continue to propel research forward, faster.”

GE Healthcare Life Sciences Think Pink campaign runs for the month of October 2019.