News | Women's Health | October 13, 2015

New NIH Breast Cancer Research to Focus on Prevention

Inquiries will focus on prevention for minorities and women, as well as role of breast density as intermediate risk factor

NIH, BCERP, breast cancer research, prevention, NIEHS, National Cancer Institute

October 13, 2015 — A new phase of the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP), focused on prevention, is being launched at the National Institutes of Health. Grant-funded researchers will now work across scientific disciplines, involve new racially and ethnically diverse communities, and expand the study of risk factors that precede breast cancer, such as breast density.

These new directions reflect recommendations made by the Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee (IBCERCC) in 2013. IBCERCC was congressionally mandated to review the state of the science around breast cancer and environmental influences by the Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act. Recommendations included prioritizing prevention, involving transdisciplinary research teams, engaging public stakeholders, collaborating across federal agencies and communicating the science to the public.

This broadened research focus will add to the growing knowledge of environmental and genetic factors that may influence breast cancer risk across the lifespan. The six new BCERP projects, plus a new coordinating center promoting cross-project collaboration, are jointly funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Cancer Institute. All projects involve strong partnerships between researchers and organizations focused on breast cancer prevention or environmental health.

The new research will be conducted at the following institutions:

  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston;
  • City of Hope/Beckman Research Institute, Duarte, California;
  • Columbia University, New York City;
  • Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Washington, D.C.;
  • Michigan State University, Lansing;
  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and
  • University of Wisconsin – Madison (Coordinating Center)

“The beauty of this research is that scientific discoveries and community observations inform each other, in order to dive deeper into the complex causes of breast cancer,” said Gwen Collman, Ph.D., director of NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training.

The focus on minority and socio-economically disadvantaged women is an important step in addressing disparities in breast cancer outcomes. Although African-American women are diagnosed with breast cancer less often than white women, more aggressive cancers and breast cancer deaths are more common among African-American women.

Another new direction for BCERP is research on the role of breast density as a possible intermediate risk factor for breast cancer. Dense breast tissue is one of the most common risk factors for breast cancer. Identifying links between environmental exposures and high breast density may provide new insights into prevention.

“These priorities reflect our continued commitment to breast cancer prevention,” noted Caroline Dilworth, Ph.D., BCERP program lead at NIEHS. “Our goal is to build on the high quality science we’ve been funding for more than a decade, while also being responsive to the expert recommendations of the IBCERCC report.”

For more information: www.nih.gov

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