Vol 7. Issue 25 / September 10, 2007

Scripps Research Lab Hosts Breast Cancer Science Training

By Mika Ono

The women and men involved with the grassroots National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund (NBCCF) are on a mission to end breast cancer through the power of action and advocacy.

The Scripps Research Institute laboratory of Associate Professor Brunhilde Felding-Habermann seeks to advance the fight against breast cancer by defining molecular mechanisms that control tumor metastasis.

When members of the two groups came together one afternoon last month as part of a six-day NBCCF training program for 52 breast cancer action advocates, it was a perfect fit.

"The Scripps Research seminar was a great success," says Felding-Habermann. "The event not only raised the profile of Scripps Research among advocates who may work on grant committees, but it also gave my lab a big boost in motivation to hear what breast cancer survivors hope to see accomplished in breast cancer research."

Karin Staflin, a postdoc in the Felding-Habermann group who led one of the event's breakout sessions, agreed. "The interaction was very positive," she says. "Workshop participants were enthusiastic about our research, and it was a good reminder of the reality of why we are doing the work we do."

Also leading sessions at the event were Scripps Research scientists including: Research Associate Sherry Niessen of the Cravatt lab, who spoke on the "metabolome" of breast cancer; Assistant Professor Vaughn Smider of the Schultz lab, who spoke on what we can learn from breast cancer patient antibodies; and Research Associate Mihaela Lorger and Senior Research Associate Joe Krueger of the Felding-Habermann lab, who spoke on how breast cancer cells can enter the brain and how they can grow there, respectively. Staflin addressed how neural stem cells could help fight such brain metastases.

Workshop participants were especially interested in practical issues such as how far the research was from being tested in the clinic and how the researchers' approaches differed from existing treatments.

In the concluding talk, Research Associate Deirdre O'Sullivan discussed the development and structure of successful research projects.

The training was held under the auspices of NBCCF's program Project LEAD (an acronym for Leadership, Education, and Advocacy Development), which was started in 1995 to prepare women and men to help change the way breast cancer research is done. NBCCF has spearheaded a major increase in federal funding for breast cancer research that has included consumer advocates as peers with scientists in the grant review process. To date, Project LEAD has trained 1,300 advocates to serve in these and other decision-making roles.

The 52 participants in this summer's San Diego Project LEAD program represented 21 states, Canada, and the United Kingdom. In addition to interacting with Scripps Research scientists, participants attended lectures and study sessions on the microbiology of cancer, genetics, epidemiology of cancer, research design, and how to critically read the scientific literature.

In conjunction with its research and education branch, NBCCF's goals are to increase federal funding for breast cancer research; improve access to high-quality health care and breast cancer clinical trials for all women; and expand the influence of breast cancer advocates wherever breast cancer decisions are made. The Avon Foundation is the primary sponsor for Project LEAD. For more information about NBCCF, see http://www.natlbcc.org/.


Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu




"The Scripps Research seminar was a great success," says Associate Professor Brunhilde Felding-Habermann, whose lab hosted the August 21 event.