Taking Action During Breast Cancer Awareness Month (And All Year Long)
Every October, the world becomes a little pinker in support of breast cancer awareness. That’s because breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide and the second leading cause of cancer death in women in the U.S.
As if that isn’t frightening enough, the concerns are even higher for those living with defective BRCA genes. BRCA stands for BR-east CA-ncer. The BRCA genes are designed to produce tumor-suppressing proteins that protect people from developing breast and other cancers by repairing damaged DNA. Mutations in these genes can cause the BRCA proteins to malfunction, resulting in an increased risk of developing cancer, often at a young age, because of the proteins’ inability to perform the repairs.
Unfortunately, these mutations can be passed down from generation to generation; Each child of a parent – either a mother or a father – who carries a mutation in one of these genes has a 50 percent chance of inheriting the mutation. In short, entire families are put at risk of developing an aggressive form of breast and other organ cancers known as inherited BRCA cancers.
Quick Facts About BRCA and Breast Cancer
BRCA and breast cancer risk in women:
- The average lifetime risk of breast cancer for BRCA-positive women is 70%, although some studies have found an up to 87 percent risk.1
- Women without a BRCA mutation have a 12 percent chance of developing breast cancer during their lifetime.2
BRCA and breast cancer risk in men:
- Men with BRCA2 mutations—and to a lesser extent BRCA1 mutations—are also at increased risk of breast cancer.
- Six in 100 men with BRCA2 mutations will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.3
What HeritX Is doing to eliminate inherited breast cancer?
BRCA mutations are devastating for people who inherit them and are more aggressive than other cancers. But, because we know how and why BRCA cancers start, this provides a unique opportunity to prevent these cancers. BRCA mutations are, in essence, the key to unlocking the puzzle of how to prevent cancer. If we can prevent cancer, we can not only keep the people we love from dying of cancer, we can spare them the trauma of cancer treatments. At HeritX, our team of scientists combined with academic and industry leaders are working tirelessly to use BRCA as a gateway to preventing other inherited cancers and, ultimately, cancer at large. We do not accept that cancer—even with an inherited BRCA mutation—is inevitable.
For us, this fight is personal. Many people on our team are BRCA-positive or have loved ones with a defective BRCA gene. This makes us determined to stop BRCA breast and other cancers in their tracks before they have a chance to develop.
Why can HeritX succeed where others have not?
Billions of dollars are spent annually on cancer research and have been since 1971, yet the incidence of cancer is on the rise and the mortality rate for most cancers remains stubbornly high. Despite the billions spent on better cancer treatments, a cure remains as elusive as ever. As Dr. Margaret I. Cuomo said in her book A World Without Cancer, “Simply put, we have not adequately channeled our scientific know-how, funding, and energy into full exploration of the one path certain to save lives: prevention.”
Unlike other cancer research funders who spend 98 percent of their research dollars on detection or treatment, HeritX spends 100 percent of its research dollars on cancer prevention. The only way to succeed with cancer prevention is to focus solely on it and to invest in research that has never been even attempted before. After all, we cannot expect the research community to find ways to prevent inherited cancers if we are not even asking them to look for those answers.
And yet, it takes more than just funding and focus. Preventing BRCA cancers will require intervening in the disease process before the disease takes hold. We call this pre-cancer intervention, and it will likely mean a therapy that will require FDA approval. Traditionally, it takes decades to get any type of therapy to FDA approval. However, at HeritX, we take a completely new approach to drug development using two simple steps:
- Bring together the best minds in various fields to focus solely on a pre-cancer intervention and generate a roadmap to designed to answer the questions the FDA and patients will inevitably ask, such as Is it safe?, Does it work? and How does it work?
- We work on all different phases of the roadmap simultaneously to develop evidence and data for these and other questions that would otherwise become hurdles down the line.
For more information on how HeritX is doing things differently and creating a model for success, see Why Put Prevention First?
How can I help?
If you are interested in joining the cause to prevent inherited cancer, there are a number of ways you can help:
- Become a Friend of HeritX in the battle against inherited breast cancer.
- Donate or fundraise to help fuel the research for to prevent BRCA cancers.
- Spread awareness about our mission to prevent inherited cancers, starting with BRCA cancers.
- Contact us today for more information about how you can help make this awareness month a thing of the past.
1 https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/risk-and-prevention/breast-cancer-risk-factors-you-cannot-change.html; Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risks Due to Inherited Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2, Mary-Claire King, Joan H. Marks, Jessica B. Mandell, The New York Breast Cancer Study Group, Science 24 Oct 2003: Vol. 302, Issue 5645, pp. 643-646 (accessed at http://science.sciencemag.org/content/302/5645/643).