Guest blog: California Breast Cancer Research Program on cusp of exciting advances

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by Dr. Mhel Kavanaugh-Lynch

My goal in life is to put myself out of a job.

As director of the California Breast Cancer Research Program for nearly 20 years, it has been my privilege to award over $235 million to over 600 academic and community researchers to address critical topics in breast cancer prevention and treatment. We focus on under-researched populations and under-funded topics of critical importance to our understanding of the disease.  

One of our strengths is our focus on the needs of the people impacted by breast cancer and ensuring that those voices are heard within the scientific community and that those needs are advanced with scientific rigor. We were the first to develop and nurture collaborative partnerships between academic researchers and community groups, and we were the first to bring breast cancer advocates into decision-making positions to set research priorities and make funding recommendations. Every research project we fund must include advocate voices like yours.

The best way to stop breast cancer is to prevent it, and we’ve developed several strategies to understand and oppose health factors like occupational exposures, air quality, and endocrine disruptors in our cosmetics and our food. Fifty percent of our funding is devoted specifically to breast cancer prevention and the identification and elimination of environmental causes of breast cancer and disparities in the burden of breast cancer in California. It’s our intent that this concentrated effort will result in new paradigms that shape the breast cancer research field and create the maximum benefit for people affected by the disease.

We are on the cusp of exciting advances. We are developing initiatives that will drive science-based research data to inform health policy decisions at state and national levels. We’re bringing new people into breast cancer research, like Meg Schwarzman, a medical doctor and environmental health expert working with us to develop an approach for identifying chemicals that may contribute to the development or progression of breast cancer.

I want to put us out of business, but the economy may beat me to it.

Tobacco tax revenue, the major source of our program’s funding, has been dropping steadily for years—this is great for public health, but unfortunate for our ability to fund significant research. One way to offset that decline is to participate in and spread the word about the voluntary Tax Checkoff contributions that California taxpayers can make when they file their taxes. With tax season underway, this secondary funding resource provides meaningful support to California researchers.  

We won’t stop looking for a way to prevent breast cancer. Donate today to help fund our game-changing research.  

Dr. Mhel Kavanaugh-Lynch has served as the director of the California Breast Cancer Research Program since 1995. She guides California’s research strategies and prioritizes efforts designed to bring an end to breast cancer and is also a member of the Breast Cancer Fund's science advisory panel.

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