Participating in Breast Cancer Prevention & Precision Medicine Research Studies, by Debra Stafford

Working Together For a Cure

When a loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer, we often find ourselves at a loss for what to do to make a real difference in their lives. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which cancer patients in active treatment need to be especially careful to avoid exposure to the novel Coronavirus. Cards and care packages are a wonderful choice. Setting up a Meal delivery calendar and preparing meals for your loved one and their family certainly helps when they don’t have the energy to prepare healthy meals for themselves when they need them the most. 

For every breast cancer survivor I know, especially those with a family history and/or genetic risk factor, their greatest concern is future generations. They don’t want their beloved children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, to go through a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Their most heartfelt wish is to be the last person in their family who is diagnosed with cancer.

You can help make their wish come true by participating in breast cancer research. You do not have to have had breast cancer yourself. In fact, to participate in the research that will most benefit those future generations, you have to have never been diagnosed with cancer. 

VIRTUAL STAND UP FOR THE CURE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE LOVE RESEARCH ARMY

In order to do our part to keep our ‘ohana safe, especially those with compromised immunity, like those undergoing cancer treatment, Stand Up for the Cure has gone virtual this year. In the virtual arena, we have an exciting and powerful opportunity to make strides towards finding better breast cancer screening and treatment protocols, and towards improving the lives of those affected by breast cancer. Stand Up for the Cure is working with the Dr. Susan Love Foundation For Breast Cancer Research to actively recruit for the Love Research Army. The Love Research Army fosters inclusive research and actively recruits participants for breast cancer research as diverse as the individuals affected by breast cancer. By joining the Love Research Army through the SUFTC recruitment campaign, you can do your part to further the Dr. Susan Love Foundation’s mission to end breast cancer once and for all.

HOW CAN MY PARTICIPATION IN BREAST CANCER RESEARCH HELP?

SEER, the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program of the National Cancer Institute has been tracking breast cancer since 1973. From 1990 to 2010, the breast cancer mortality rate fell by 36% due to improved breast cancer treatments. Each breast cancer survivor knows that the treatments that saved our lives and were less brutal on our bodies, were only available to us because of the women and men before us who were willing to participate in research trials.

But, it is not only the breast cancer patients before us who can make a difference. Even if you have no history of cancer, you can make a difference in the lives of future generations and help us achieve the goal of curing breast cancer by participating in observational breast cancer studies like lifestyle intervention studies and breast cancer screening studies.

BUSTING THE MYTHS AROUND PARTICIPATING IN RESEARCH TRIALS

   

PRECISION MEDICINE & WHY IT MATTERS

As our understanding of breast cancer has become more advanced, we have realized that breast cancer is not just one disease – it is many – and the treatment needs to match the specifics of the individual patient’s disease.

Over time we have discovered that a one-size-fits-all approach to medicine is not the best practice to conquer disease, especially complex diseases like cancer. There has been a major movement towards precision medicine in the US. Medical research focuses, more and more, on finding the right intervention for each body. The All of Us Research Program through the NIH is recruiting one million Americans, of diverse backgrounds, with the goals of better understanding the benefits of precision medicine, which:

  • Is based on you as an individual

  • Takes into account your environment (where you live), lifestyle (what you do), and your family health history and genetic makeup

  • Gives health care providers the information they need to make customized recommendations for people of different backgrounds, ages, and regions

  • Helps you get better information about how to be healthier

  • Reduces health care costs by matching the right person with the right treatment the first time (https://allofus.nih.gov/about/all-us-research-program-overview)

The All of Us Research Program is not cancer-specific, but it will give cancer researchers valuable information to design better breast cancer-specific precision medicine trials. Anyone, 18 or older, living in the United States can join the All of Us Research Program.

THE WISDOM STUDY

During the period from 1980 – 1998, the practice of mammography expanded greatly. With disappointment, we realized that population-wide screening increases in women did not have the effect on cancer mortality that we had hoped. As we have learned about the benefits of precision medicine in cancer treatment and prevention, Dr. Laura Esserman designed the WISDOM Study (Women Informed to Screen Depending on Measures of risk). The WISDOM Study is a precision screening study, comparing the standard screening protocol with a personalized protocol based on family and medical history and genetic risk factors. Participants can choose whether to be randomly selected into the standard or personalized protocol, or if they have a strong preference, can choose which protocol to join. The WISDOM Study exemplifies the goal of the Dr. Susan Foundation for Breast Cancer Research’s goal of finding ways to minimize the collateral damage caused by cancer interventions.  The Love Research Army is actively recruiting for the WISDOM Study. Enrollment criteria include the following:

  • Are 40-74 years old

  • Live in the United States
  • Identify as female
  • Have no personal history of breast cancer or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

  • Have no history of mastectomy in both breasts

Written by Debra Stafford, WISDOM Ambassador, CEO/Founder of ROAR Survivorship

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