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Founder's Fund

One in eight women in the US will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. For nearly 30 percent of them, the cancer will spread, or metastasize. While there has been significant progress in early detection and treatment for primary breast cancer, advances in treatment and prevention of metastasis are lagging behind. Today, an estimated 150,000 to 250,000 women and men in the US alone are living with metastatic breast cancer.

Under the direction of our Scientific Director Dr. Larry Norton and Chairman of our Scientific Advisory Board Dr. Clifford Hudis, BCRF has established a dedicated initiative to address the persistent challenges of breast cancer metastasis. This mission was fueled by an outpouring of support honoring the memory and immutable determination of BCRF’s founder, Evelyn Lauder. Following her death in 2011, gifts poured in to the Foundation from friends, admirers and supporters of Mrs. Lauder’s mission to end breast cancer, resulting in the establishment of a multi-million dollar fund bearing her name. BCRF’s scientific leadership decided that there could be no more important initiative to honor Mrs. Lauder’s mission than a concerted focus on metastasis. Therefore, to accelerate discoveries that will improve outcomes for people living with metastatic breast cancer, BCRF has dedicated $31 million to date to launch the Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund, an international, multi-year collaboration focused on dissecting the molecular basis of metastasis. BCRF investigators from around the world are using the most advanced tools of molecular analysis--some developed with BCRF support--to understand real disease in real people in real time. We are committed to finding out why some cancers metastasize and others do not; why some cancers grow quickly and cause problems while others do not, and how we might use this knowledge to predict, treat, and even prevent the spread of cancer. No topic in cancer medicine is more pressing and no opportunity more significant.  

Disbursements of BCRF's $31 million began in 2013 and are being used to support the efforts of leading clinical and laboratory sites across North America and Europe to:

  • Identify changes in molecular and genetic markers that occur when breast cancers metastasize;
  • Follow individual patients to see how the molecular markers in their metastases change over time;
  • Perform comprehensive analyses of metastases being treated with medicines that target specific molecular changes.

The Founder’s Fund has two components: AURORA EU, based in Brussels and conducted under the oversight of Martine Piccart-Gebhart and AURORA US, coordinated by Nancy Davidson with clinical aspects being administered by Antonio Wolff through his leadership of the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC). The TBCRC is a model clinical trials program uniting the efforts of laboratory scientists and clinical researchers focused on trials that integrate clinical and laboratory studies to accelerate advances in breast cancer care.

The objective of AURORA EU is to conduct precise molecular analyses of primary and metastatic breast cancer samples to better understand the evolution of metastasis and the mechanisms of drug resistance that allow tumors to grow and spread. The consortium includes 15 research groups in 15 countries throughout Europe and over 82 clinical sites. The investigators are working to identify major cancer related genes driving metastasis and blood-based biomarkers that can be used as a non-invasive test (instead of a biopsy) to determine tumor progression and response to treatment. These efforts will lead to more efficient clinical trials and better management of metastatic breast cancer based on tumor genomics. The biospecimens collected will provide a valuable resource for future translational studies.

AURORA US utilizes the extensive clinical trial infrastructure of the TBCRC for clinical trial development and molecular and pathological evaluation of metastatic breast cancer samples. The AURORA US efforts are being conducted by three integrated working groups that are focused on (i) clinical trial development, (ii) construction of a biorepository of metastatic tissue and (iii) molecular analysis of metastatic and primary tumors, including the development of an experimental model system that precisely mimics human breast metastases. The system will use tumor cells from patients to evaluate the effect of specific gene mutations on drug response and tumor development in a laboratory setting. Leading the various efforts of AURORA US are BCRF grantees, Charles Perou, Nancy Lin, Andrea Richardson, W. Fraser Symmans, and Matthew Ellis

The talent and dedication of the international experts involved assure the success of the Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund Project. Many world-renowned investigators are involved in every step. We expect that thousands of cases of metastatic breast cancer will be thoroughly analyzed and the data and many of the specimens will be available for future research by investigators around the globe.

None of this would be possible without the generous support of BCRF donors. With your help we honor Mrs. Lauder’s vision in the best way possible: research to defeat disease.