Late Breaking News
Triennial DoD Breast Cancer Conference Specializes in Novel Studies
Orlando, FL —Scientists, breast-cancer survivors and advocates gathered at the recent Era of Hope conference to learn about the advances made by the DoD Breast Cancer Research Program awardees, and to identify approaches for future breast cancer research.
It is the kind of collaboration that Navy Capt. Melissa Kaime, MD, director of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), was pleased to see at the conference.
“The thing that strikes me most is the involvement of consumers with the scientists,” Kaime told U.S. Medicine. “That is kind of a hallmark of our program, where we find out exactly from those affected with or from the disease what is most important to them. They have a seat at the table at deciding what the research gaps are and how we will fill those gaps, and then making recommendations on the proposals to fill those gaps. ”
The Era of Hope conference held this year in August takes place once every three years. There, scientists and clinicians present findings of their breast cancer research funded by the program. What makes the conference unique is that it is not just scientists that present and participate in conference sessions, but patients who have breast cancer and others who are impacted also participate and contribute to the discussion of what breast cancer research should be funded.
“For many of our funded investigators it will be the first time they will have some time with a consumer — someone affected by the disease — to be accountable, to say, ‘Why is my research going to be useful to you or someone else who is effected by the disease?’ That really energizes the researchers to understand that there is urgency and a passion and their work is not just for knowledge sake, but it will really have meaning,” she said.
BCRP Tackles Disease Research
BCRP got its start when consumer groups voiced a need for funding research in ways that were different from those employed by traditional medical research organizations. Congress responded by allocating specific funds for breast cancer research in the DoD budget. In addition to breast cancer, the CDMRP portfolio includes other disease research programs.
BCRP is the second-largest funding agent of extramural breast cancer research in the world. Since the program’s establishment in 1992, $2.68 billion in congressional appropriations have been received by the program, including $150 million in fiscal year 2011.
While BCRP is not military-specific, DoD was chosen to administer BCRP because of “its long history in performing medical research studies and because its administrative structure was designed for flexible and quick responses to changing needs and priorities,” according to CDMRP.
“All of the defense needs, all of the military personnel and the war efforts being done within the military are going to be taken care of. We don’t take away from that,” said Kaime “We are not taking away from the military mission.”
Congress decides annually on the funding, and the funding for the CDMRP research is never guaranteed. Earlier this year, concern was raised among cancer advocates when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), stated that non-defense related spending should be moved out of the FY 2011 DoD budget, including funding for CDMRP’s prostate, breast, ovarian and lung cancer programs. Congress ultimately kept the breast cancer funds intact.
Kaime said the program’s research benefits all women — including those in the military. A study conducted in 2009 suggested that, in fact, military women had higher rates of breast cancer than the general population. This may be because military members are more likely to undergo breast cancer screening than the general population, the study authors suggested. However, the authors also suggested that military women may be more likely to use birth control and be engaged in industrial jobs that expose them to chemicals related to breast cancer.
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- Triennial DoD Breast Cancer Conference Specializes in Novel Studies