Profiles > Philanthropy > Breast Cancer Research Foundation
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation
Founded in 1993, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) is an independent, not-for-profit organization that works toward the prevention and cure of breast cancer by providing critical funding for innovative clinical and translational research at leading medical centers worldwide, and by increasing public awareness about good breast health. Since inception, BCRF has raised more than $475 million to support research at medical institutions across the globe, conducting advanced and promising breast cancer research for prevention and cure.
BCRF currently funds 186 scientists across the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Australia, and Asia. BCRF has funded basic research on genetic susceptibility to breast cancer, breast cancer stem cells, trastuzumab
(Herceptin), anti-angiogenesis treatment with bevacizumab (Avastin), MRI imaging, aromatase inhibitors, tamoxifen; and also clinical trials of new treatments with the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium.
As of 2013, BCRF has been directing 90 cents of every dollar raised toward breast cancer research and breast cancer awareness programs. The foundation has received exceptional recognition from several organizations that monitor and provide comprehensive, unbiased information on charities. CharityWatch, formerly the American Institute of Philanthropy, continues to award BCRF an "A+" rating.
Founded 1993
Founder Evelyn Lauder
Headquarters New York, USA
Type Health
Recent Year Revenue $71,300,000
Charity Navigator 67.60 / 70.00
BBB Accredited 20/20
Charity Watch A+
BCRF was founded by Evelyn Lauder (1936-2011), Senior Corporate Vice President and Head of Fragrance Development Worldwide for the Estee Lauder Companies. Mrs. Lauder was perhaps best known to the public for her work in bringing global awareness to women's health. Her personal experience with early-stage breast cancer in 1987 led her to co-create the now ubiquitous Pink Ribbon in 1992 (with Alexandra Penney of SELF magazine), which is recognized as the worldwide symbol of breast health. In conjunction, Mrs. Lauder launched the Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) campaign. To date, the BCA Campaign has distributed more than 115 million Pink Ribbons and informational brochures worldwide. Mrs. Lauder passed away from complications of non-genetic ovarian cancer in November 2011.
BCRF-funded research has helped save lives and significantly improved the quality of care and survival rate for tens of thousands of breast cancer patients in the past decade and a half. After
remaining stagnant for more than 50 years, the death rate from breast cancer has decreased by more than 30%. Today, there are nearly 3 million breast cancer survivors in the US, and 9 out of 10 live longer than before and receive higher quality care. Better still, more than 90% of breast cancers are being diagnosed and treated at an early stage -- making a major difference in cure rates.
The following areas of BCRF research accomplishment have laid the foundation for breast cancer prevention and cure:
Genetic Susceptibility
BCRF is the lead organization in funding research on genetic susceptibility in breast cancer. Its researchers have made the following contributions:
  • 2002 – The finding that breast cancer is a collection of diseases with different patterns of gene activity, which directly relate to determining prognoses and selecting most appropriate treatments.
  • 2006 – The collection of more than 1,300 human genes related to breast cancer, which is now available to scientists worldwide for studying breast cancer.
  • 2008– New genetic risk markers for breast cancer discovered and sister study searching for new genetic protective markers for breast cancer is launched.
  • 2009– The discovery that BRCA1 mutations are found more often in women with triple-negative tumors than their family histories would suggest so that younger women with triple-negative tumors should be genetically tested more often.
Breast Cancer Stem Cells
In 2009, reports of the first clinical studies in breast cancer stem cells cited the importance of the 2003 discovery of the fundamental properties of the cells that are the very roots of breast cancers -- research conducted with BCRF funding. Earlier in 2008, BCRF researchers learned that in the process of metastasis, the cells that make up breast cancer tumors acquire cancer stem cell traits, making them more tenacious.
Hercepti® (trastuzumab)
Herceptin's discovery and refinement for various stages and forms of cancer have been an ongoing BCRF endeavor.
  • 2001New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) describes the value of trastuzumab (marketed as Herceptin) as a monoclonal antibody directed against the HER2 receptor, which improves outcomes, including survival, for patients with metastatic HER2-positive disease.
  • 2005 – Several large multicenter randomized controlled trials show that adjuvant trastuzumab can decrease the risk of recurrence for patients with HER2-positive early-stage breast cancer by 50%.
  • 2007– In the case of inflammatory breast cancer, administering Herceptin before surgery in addition to chemotherapy improves the likelihood of a disease-free survival.
  • 2011– Reported in the NEJM and at the 2011 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, results from CLEOPATRA, a large-scale, international phase III clinical trial indicated that women receiving the combined therapy of Herceptin and pertuzumab experienced on average 18.5 months of progression-free survival, compared with 12.4 months to those who received only one anti-HER2 drug. These findings, if they persist, are likely to change clinical practice for patients with advanced HER2+ breast cancer if and when this drug receives FDA approval.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
In 2007, the same year that the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommend magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests for women considered at high risk for breast cancer and in women with newly diagnosed breast cancer, a specialized MRI test for women with fast-growing breast tumors was developed with BCRF funding.
Anti-angiogenesis Treatment
A tumor's blood supply system is one of its most vulnerable points, and a promising new area of cancer research is called anti-angiogenesis treatment. BCRF funded the field's founder, the late Dr. Judah Folkman, of Children's Hospital, Boston, from 1998, and helped his (as well as others') laboratories toward developing multiple drugs that can keep breast cancer cells in a dormant state by inhibiting the growth of blood vessels.
Aromatase Inhibitors
In 2006, the development of gene-based approaches to predict patients (with breast cancer) who will benefit most from treatment with tamoxifen or from aromatase inhibitors has improved both the application of aromatase inhibitors and advanced the field of personalized medicine, tailoring treatment to the patients' tumors and their individual genetic makeup.
Up to 40% of women treated for estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer with tamoxifen will progress to incurable disease. In 2007, a genomic test revealed 62 determining genes for ER+ breast cancer and identified two sub-groups of ER+ tumors. The genomic tests are being translated into commercially viable diagnostic tools for ER+ breast cancers.
Breast Cancer Clinical Trials
BCRF has established a leadership role in breast cancer clinical trials. In 2005, BCRF created the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC), uniting the efforts of 16 leading breast cancer research centers in the US. The Consortium's mission is to reduce the burden of breast cancer by using a collaborative and multi-disciplinary approach to improve the understanding of breast cancer biology and test new therapeutic strategies. After BCRF's founding support, the Komen Foundation and the Avon Foundation also joined, contributing to the ongoing support of TBCRC.
  • In seven years, TBCRC members have activated 21 clinical trials, 8 of which have closed upon reaching accrual goals.
  • Work to identify new markers in the blood that might aid in breast cancer management and prediction of disease progression is underway.
The TBCRC emphasizes "pre-operative" trials, testing drugs in women before surgery -- requiring biopsy samples from metastatic breast cancers and using non-invasive imaging to measure the growth of tumors, blood vessel formation, and metabolism of cancer cells. Further, proof of BCRF's integral support of clinical trials is demonstrated by its grant support of all relevant National Cancer Institute cooperative groups.
Tumor Microenvironment
Different types of cells within the primary tumor (known as the tumor microenvironment) can and should be targeted to avoid progression and metastases. In 2007, progression of breast cancer at the molecular and cellular level -- known as the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process that allows cancerous cells to invade and metastasize -- was identified and described. New therapies designed to impede EMT may avert disease progression and metastasis.
Molecular Profiling
Starting 1998, BCRF researchers have helped reclassify human breast cancers into a greater number of sub-types, and, in turn, established valuable guidelines for treatments according to the molecular profiling of tumors. In addition, several BCRF researchers are taking the increased characterization of tumor types and applying their data across populations to determine breast cancer susceptibility. (Perou, Chang, Iglehart and Richardson)
ROMA Technology
In 2003, a novel screening technology was developed -- representational oligonucleotide micro-array analysis-using biopsied breast tissue that can track genetic "mistakes", which could lead to cancer with very high accuracy. This ROMA technology is also applied to differences in the DNA of normal cells, aiding in the search for both tumor differences and individual genetic and metabolic differences that are helping guide breast cancer treatments.
Breast Cancer Treatment Among The Elderly
Half of all women with breast cancer are 65 or older at diagnosis, and the percentage is known to be rising. Most clinical trials in breast cancer historically exclude women who are considered senior citizens, yet a healthy 65-year-old has a life expectancy of at least another 20 years. Since 1995, BCRF researchers have been studying the needs of elderly breast cancer patients, and documenting the fact that theirs is a unique complex of diseases, and that older patients are less likely to be offered participation in clinical trials than younger patients.
International Research Funding
In a prescient move, BCRF began a program of international research funding, growing from its first international grant in 2001 to Ephrat Levy-Lahad in Israel, to grants in 13 countries in 2011. While other groups have funded international breast cancer advocacy projects and international research, BCRF was the first private organization to fund scientific research on breast cancer internationally.
  • Results include improving standards of care in numerous breast cancer populations in South America, the Middle East and Africa, as well as research breakthroughs in inflammatory breast cancer, breast cancer genetics, and the underlying molecular conditions of breast cancer.
  • In 2005, the Breast International Group (BIG) in Belgium partnered with the Breast Cancer Intergroup (now known as the North American Breast Cancer Group). This collaboration -- similar to TBCRC, but at an international level -- led to increased clinical trials and translational research, drawing from the resources of many countries.
  • In November 2010, BCRF co-hosted its first international scientific meeting, a symposium in Tel Aviv, on Clinical Dilemmas in Management of Breast and Ovarian Cancer in BRCA Carriers, which was attended by more than 150 medical oncologists, surgeons, and other medical professionals from the Middle East, Europe, Australia, and North America.
Allocation of Expenses
In 2013, BCRF annual research funding increased to $45 million, with grants now supporting more than 200 dedicated researchers at major medical institutions across the globe -- a very long way from the $159,000 awarded to eight researchers in 1994. In addition, BCRF awarded two grants totaling $5 million from the Founder’s Fund in 2013.
As per the audited financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2013, BCRF received total public support and revenue of $73.7 million, against which the total expenses stood at $57.1 million. Of the total expenses, $51.8 million (91%) was toward program service expenses.
How one can help
BCRF relies on the generous contributions of supporters to deliver its services. The contributions of dedicated patrons and corporate partners have enabled BCRF to make significant advances in the fields of science and medicine. Similar to individual donors, corporate partners are critical to helping fulfill the promise of lifesaving research. By mobilizing their customers and employees, corporate partners help the foundation engage new supporters and fund new investigations, adding fuel to the fight against breast cancer.
Delta Airlines, for example, has helped BCRF reach new heights. The airline created a pink Delta Boeing 767-400, aircraft with Evelyn Lauder’s signature emblazoned on its side. This aircraft undertakes “flight for the fight” wherein pilots and flight attendants sport pink ties and dresses as they travel the globe raising international awareness. Delta also charters the signature pink plane for a “survivor flight” every October to honor its employees who have survived or are currently struggling with breast cancer.
One can get involved with the foundation in various ways by either sponsoring research or hosting a fundraiser or choosing BCFR for workplace giving. For the BCFR online giving program Time for Research, one can sponsor research time on an hourly basis and can use it to honor someone on a special occasion, such as a birthday, wedding or anniversary.