It’s here! October—National Breast Cancer Awareness Month—although honestly, this type of cancer is very much in the public eye throughout the year. Breast cancer survivors, those at risk, and families who have lost a loved one to this disease have made it their charge to keep a pink theme year round.
With the growing support has come saturation of the market with pink ribbon products, causing sales to decline over time for items whose purchase enabled more research to be conducted through their net proceeds. Many consumers are annoyed that they still see a push for such market items, believing that there should be a cure by now.
The latter half of 2017 and all of 2018 will be a time of cutting-edge research results that truly bring us closer to a solution than ever before. It’s not yet a cure, or prevention, but it will be lifesaving and quality-of-life preserving. That’s big!
Scientists in the labs, including here at Johns Hopkins, have discovered new proteins on breast cancer cells and have learned how they work and how to turn them off, just as was accomplished in the early 1990s with the implementation of targeted biologic drugs like Herceptin. This is incredibly exciting. Researchers are also able to look at circulating tumor cells in the body of a patient with breast cancer and determine if these cells have the capability to set up shop in another organ site, or if they will spontaneously die on their own or become dormant and permanently unable to replicate themselves. This means we will know who is at risk for getting stage 4 breast cancer and thus who needs specific targeted treatments to turn off these newly identified receptors that produce specific newly identified proteins. Wow.
To maintain the momentum, we must promote events that will provide additional resources for laboratory and clinical research so that this great work that has begun can be sustained. It’s also important to promote the concept of patient advocacy being a part of all research efforts, no matter how big or small. Patient advocates—particularly those who are survivors—put a face to this disease, and can encourage lab researchers to work a little longer and harder, having been touched emotionally by someone who was forced to walk the walk and talk the talk.
Will there be another National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 2018? Sure, as there will be in 2019, 2020, and for many years to come. But we are getting closer to identifying how to stop the disease in its tracks so that more lives are saved.
If you see something for sale that is raising money for breast cancer research, consider purchasing it for a patient who is newly diagnosed with breast cancer, and put fliers in your breast center waiting room about other products whose dollars are targeted for research, too. We are getting closer....