Our Bodies Our Blog has invited the folks at Breast Cancer Action to write monthly guest posts on breast cancer and related issues.
by Brenda Salgado
Though billions of dollars have been spent on breast cancer research, the incidence of breast cancer is higher today than it was 20 years ago. Inequities in breast cancer mortality continue to increase, and we still can’t definitively figure out what’s causing this disease. Some gains have been made in treatment, but the results are simply not enough.
How can we ensure that research funds are used wisely and effectively? One model for how research should be done is the California Breast Cancer Research Program (CBCRP)
The CBCRP, which funds groundbreaking research, has changed how breast cancer is addressed around the world. Its research includes topics like psychosocial impacts, community-based participatory research, environmental exposures, and racial and ethnic disparities. It is also committed to disseminating research results.
You’d think a program like this would be reaping the rewards of funding, but no. In fact, the University of California Office of the President, CBCRP’s administrative home, wants to gut the program by eliminating the collaborative planning, evaluation and community outreach activities. This would impact the program’s ability to fund the best breast cancer research — and its ability to share these results with the community and health providers.
The CBCRP is funded by a state tobacco tax, donations from a voluntary tax check-off program, and individual contributions. It is the largest state-funded research program in the nation, and 95 percent of the money goes directly to funding research and education efforts.
The CBCRP was founded and is run by an unprecedented collaboration of women with breast cancer, advocates, activists, scientists, clinicians and researchers. Because of this collaboration, the program has a deep understanding of what breast cancer research has already been done, and what it needs to focus on next — such as environmental causes.
UCOP bureaucrats think they’re better suited to determine what research gets funded than the women and men working to end this disease. But UCOP can’t provide the insightful funding CBCRP has done for years. The CBCRP has funded important research that simply wouldn’t have seen the light of day otherwise.
UCOP and other research funders need to hear from women’s health advocates that we want effective and efficient use of our financial resources. Innovative health research programs like the CBCRP are about more than just breast cancer. They are models for how women and other affected communities can and must be included in deciding what research is funded and making sure that the results are shared with the public.
Want to help save this innovative and effective program? We’ve put together a letter you can email to U of C President Mark Yudof, asking him to stop this travesty. As we note in the letter, “We do not want or need more breast cancer research funding at the expense of smart breast cancer research funding.”
Brenda Salgado is the program manager at Breast Cancer Action. She manages BCA’s ongoing campaigns, oversees BCA’s legislative and policy work, and represents BCA on environmental and women’s health coalitions.