Kinga Lampert & The Breast Cancer Research Foundation
Advancing the world's most promising research to end breast cancer
The quote up there? We know it's a hard one to swallow. That's every two minutes. Think about how quickly two minutes go by—just reading this introduction, perhaps. That's the horrifying reality of breast cancer. There's no mincing words.
This is a disease that touches everyone, whether you've gone through it yourself or know someone who has. Look around you and the people in your company. Then consider another alarming statistic: One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
But there's welcome news among the bad. Since its founding in 1993, by the incomparable Evelyn Lauder of the Estée Lauder family, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation has had some incredible, life-changing victories in the fight against the disease. "There are 3.5 million survivors in the U.S. today, and many of them are thriving because the research was there for them when they needed it," says Kinga Lampert, co-chair of the nonprofit and our #VBGivesBack woman of the month. "But there is so much more to do—and we won’t stop until we end breast cancer completely."
We are so proud to support BCRF all month long by donating $10 from every veronicabeard.com purchase—plus, on October 22nd, we'll be hosting a nationwide give-back day to further the cause. Follow us here and on Instagram to learn more and, in the meantime, read our insightful interview with Lampert, who reveals her own story and details the astonishing scientific advancements made. "What's next,” she adds, “is the cure.”
I'm a breast cancer survivor, so it was very natural for me get involved in the cause, but I also found my way to BCRF through my friendship with Evelyn Lauder, who founded the nonprofit in 1993. She had a singular mission for BCRF, which was so compelling to me: to eradicate breast cancer by funding the world's most promising research. That mission hasn’t changed in 25 years. Today, we are the largest funder of breast cancer research worldwide. This year alone BCRF has invested $66 million to support the work of 275 scientists, across 14 countries.
Could you tell us more about Evelyn's vision for the foundation?
When she started it, she felt strongly that BCRF should not have an endowment. All the money we raise every year is immediately put to work and given away and translated into grants. She believed, as do I, that this disease is curable and a problem that can be solved. She never wanted to hang on to any dollars for the proverbial rainy day; she wanted the money to be put to work.
How pervasive is this disease?
One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Every two minutes, a woman in the U.S. hears the words, "You have breast cancer." Everybody is touched by the disease, either personally or through someone he or she knows.
It's important to note that men can be diagnosed by breast cancer, too. More than 2,500 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in men, with 500 men dying from their disease each year. That's why we've added a blue dot to our pink ribbon, to symbolize the men who are fighting as well.
When you're faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, the first feeling you have is of no control. My advice is to take an active role in your care and learn as much as you can.
A lot of times when people talk about this cause, they want to donate and get involved but wonder if the needle is really moving. Women are still dying; women are still getting diagnosed. But the message I want to put out there is one of hope—BCRF has made a very big impact and we have very specific results to show for it. Early stage breast cancer is 95% curable today. Deaths from breast cancer have declined 40% since 1989. Think of it this way: Almost half of the women who are survivors today would not be 20 years ago. That's an incredibly powerful statistic. Here’s one more: There are 3.5 million survivors in the U.S. today, and many of them are thriving because the research was there for them when they needed it. But there is so much more to do — and we won’t stop until we end breast cancer completely.
BCRF has been involved in every single major breakthrough in the field of breast cancer research, whether it's new therapies or diagnostic tools. The BRCA1 and 2 genes everybody talks about—those were discovered by one of our esteemed researchers and scientists, Mary-Claire King. The use of Herceptin as an effective therapy for HER2 breast cancer came from BCRF-supported work—as did the use of the MammaPrint assay to define patients who do or do not need chemotherapy. We supported a large trial called TailorRX that also demonstrated further patients that could safely forego chemo therapy. There are so many more examples. You can follow our anniversary campaign on Instagram, called 25 Years of Impact, to learn more.
That's incredible. What's on the horizon?
Every day our researchers are working on novel ways to approach the disease. One very important aspect that we're researching now is metastatic breast cancer—when the cancer leaves the breast and travels to remote locations in the body. Because today, even though great advances have been made in prolonging the life of patients, metastatic breast cancer is not curable, so that's very much on the forefront of our minds.
Another advance in the pipeline is something called liquid biopsies, which are simple blood tests that can detect breast cancer in the bloodstream. It's not yet administered in hospitals, but a development we're very, very excited about. You can see more about how this treatment works in this video here.
And, of course, what's next is the cure. And the cure doesn't have to be a pill or a vaccine, where you take it and you're suddenly cured. The way I view it, if breast cancer can be turned into a chronic disease, like diabetes, that women can live with but not lose their lives to—that, to me, is a form of cure. That's why I have such a feeling of hope that we are getting close to solving it.
Funding. I always say the only thing that stands between today and finding a cure is funding. That's the only way we can really see a world without cancer.
The other challenge is awareness. I want someone who is diagnosed with breast cancer to think of BCRF as their first resource. We're not only a tool for women to discover the latest clinical trials, the latest research, but also offer platforms to get involved, learn about grassroots efforts to raise money. Our events also have an educational component to them, like panels and Q&As. What I love about the Foundation is the substance of it—you can both learn the facts and also have an opportunity to get involved.
I've spoken to many women who are newly diagnosed and what is really gratifying is hearing the treatments that are offered to them today, targeted treatments with less side effects. When I compare that to my experience going through breast cancer 14 years ago, I see how far we've come. Even something like a cold cap, which helps women spare their hair when in chemotherapy, did not exist a decade ago. Or the Oncotype DX test I mentioned earlier. Seeing how far we've come has been incredibly gratifying to me.
It was when we lost Evelyn eight years ago. The Foundation was so tied to her being the founder, everyone wondered how we would go on and if BCRF could stand on its own two feet. It has been incredible to see that, since then, the Foundation has continued to grow because of the seed she planted. That was a turning point for me. I'm so honored to be deeply involved and to have been asked by Leonard Lauder to help lead the organization after Evelyn passed away.
Any advice to share for women going through breast cancer?
When you're faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, the first feeling you have is of no control. My advice is to take an active role in your care and learn as much as you can. There's a quote from Evelyn I've always loved: “Knowledge is power.” Educating yourself on your options and becoming a part of the process will help you gain control over what's happening
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