Boston Symposium May 13, 2010
BCRF supporters gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston on May 13th to hear a panel of experts discuss the legacy of the late Judah Folkman, MD, who was honored with BCRF's Jill Rose Award in 1997 and whose research on anti-angiogenesis was supported by the Foundation each year from 1997 until his death in 2008.
The Symposium, underwritten by the Brigham & Women's Hospital Breast Cancer Quality of Life Program, was chaired by Dr. Carolyn Kaelin, who welcomed guests and noted that BCRF's identification of scientific talent was never better epitomized than by the award to Dr. Folkman.
She introduced BCRF Scientific Director, Larry Norton, MD, who set the tone for the panel discussion by calling attention to BCRF's unique role in the breast cancer research community. BCRF seeks out the very best and most talented people with demonstrated ability to conduct creative scientific research aimed at translation to improved human health. Dr. Norton remembered Dr. Folkman as his "personal hero" whose creative ideas were derived from clinical experience, who showed intellectual courage in standing by his ideas even when they were challenged or met with skepticism, and who steadfastly continued his research over the course of a long and productive career. Dr. Folkman's creativity and determination are particularly important to remember during a time of uncertain economic forecasts which may cause scientific conservatism at the expense of innovation and exploration.
BCRF Scientific Advisory Committee Chairman Clifford Hudis, MD, introduced the four panelists and noted the interconnectedness of their work, particularly fitting as BCRF expects and encourages collaboration among its grantees. Each speaker remarked on the inclination to share findings and build on others' discoveries that is a hallmark of the BCRF research community. Marsha Moses, PhD (Children's Hospital and Harvard), who worked directly with Judah Folkman for many years, spoke of her laboratory's ongoing search for the "switch" that activates dormant cancers by allowing them to induce new blood vessel formation and she reported that BCRF funding is also enabling her group to work on the development of non-invasive, painless and inexpensive tests that will identify breast cancer biomarkers.
Stuart Schnitt, MD (Beth Israel Deaconess and Harvard), spoke of his group's efforts to further identify the subtypes of breast cancer which develop in women with the mutations in the genes for breast cancer (BRCA).
Andrea Richardson, MD, PhD (Dana-Farber, Brigham & Women's and Harvard), described a few of the many BCRF research collaborations that have emerged from her studies of breast tissue, and described her groupís search for more effective therapies for those women whose genetic make-up cause their cancers to be resistant to traditional forms of chemotherapy.
William Kaelin, Jr., MD (Dana-Farber and Harvard), recalled that it was a publication by Dr. Folkman in the 1980s which inspired him to focus on cancer research. Dr. Kaelin spoke about the rapid technological developments which not only have brought about the ability to quickly and inexpensively sequence all of the human genome, but also present challenges: scientists who are confronted with many gene mutations must determine which of those are critical to cancerís evolution and growth and which are merely "along for the ride".
After a spirited question and answer session with the audience, BCRF Founder and Chairman Evelyn H. Lauder closed the symposium by noting that the brilliance of BCRF-funded scientists inspires the BCRF community to persevere in raising funds to enable them to continue their research and bring us all closer to not only a cure for breast cancer, but prevention of the disease.