Reviewing the charity, Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Charity Review: Breast Cancer Research Foundation

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Last Updated: October 4, 2022

Many of us are interested in making donations in support of cancer research. But figuring out which organizations will make the most effective use of our contributions isn’t always an easy task. This post is the second in a series in which we’re looking at individual charities that focus primarily on cancer research.

Making a choice based on value for our money means considering factors such as how an organization uses the money it raises, its financial health, and how transparent it is about what has been accomplished with the contributions it has received.

In this post, we review the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, including its mission and approach, history, notable financial facts and results reporting.

Breast Cancer Research Foundation: It’s Mission and Approach

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation says that its mission is “to prevent and cure breast cancer by advancing the world’s most promising research.” It seeks to carry out this mission by providing grants to researchers for studies that have the potential for rapid application in the clinic.

The grant-making process is overseen by a Scientific Advisory Board, whose members include a number of well-known, highly regarded breast cancer researchers and clinicians.

Unsolicited grant applications are discouraged. Instead, the SAB seeks out investigators whose have demonstrated the potential to advance the understanding of breast cancer and its treatment toward the goals of cure or prevention. Grants are awarded for one year and are announced each year in August. All grantees are required to submit two progress reports and a final report.

BCRF says that it supports projects in all stages of development. Its basic approach is to provide seed money to enable researchers to generate the preliminary data necessary to obtain additional funding from government agencies and other foundations.

Researchers are encouraged to partner with other researchers from around the world and focus on research that can be moved quickly from the lab to the patient. Areas of focus include understanding the basic biology of breast cancer, heredity & ethnicity, “lifestyle” factors that reduce risk, developing more personalized treatments, quality of life after treatment and understanding metastasis.

The Organization’s History  

BCRF was founded in 1993 by Evelyn H. Lauder and Dr. Larry Norton. Evelyn Lauder was a senior executive with the Estee Lauder Companies, a philanthropist and a member of the board of overseers of the Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Larry Norton is a medical oncologist who is currently Senior Vice President at Memorial-Sloan Kettering and is a former president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

After the death of Evelyn Lauder in 2011, a separate Founders Fund was established with a specific focus on improving understanding of the biology of breast cancer metastasis. The Founders Fund is supporting two large clinical trials–one in the United States and one in Europe. These trials aim to identify changes in molecular markers that occur when breast cancers metastasize, follow individual patients to see how the molecular markers in their metastases change over time, and help determine how treatments can be more effectively tailored to the changing biology of the cancers.

BCRF is also a member of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance, an alliance of patient advocacy groups, research charities and pharmaceutical companies that was formed in 2013. The alliance is working to advance progress in scientific research into metastatic breast cancer and to improve access to information and support for people living with metastatic breast cancer.

Major Program Areas, Expenses and Funding*

BCRF received a total of $62 million in public support and revenue for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2021. It awarded $47 million in grants for the fiscal year.

Of BCRF’s total expenses, 85% were spent on its programs and services, 5% went to administrative expenses and 10% were allocated to fundraising.

BCRF raises funds for breast cancer research from individuals and corporations. The Estee Lauder Companies and affiliates have been and continue to be major donors.

Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs

These are the ratings BCRF has received from charity rating agencies:

Charity Navigator: 3 stars
Charity Watch: A
GuideStar: Gold Seal of Transparency

Results: What Does the Charity Report?

For research being conducted in 2022-2023, BCRF has distributed $53 million in grants to 255 researchers from universities and medical institutions in the United States and other countries. Its website has profiles for each grantee including descriptions of their current specific areas of study that are being funded by BCRF grants.

BCRF reports on research progress in articles that it publishes on its blog, The Progress Report and on its podcast, Investigating Breast Cancer. Recent articles on the blog include:

  • an overview of inherited risk factors and hereditary breast cancer and specific projects that BCRF investigators are currently conducting to better understand the roles of family history, race and ethnicity to improve breast cancer detection and prevention.
  • an explanation of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), also known as Stage 0 breast cancer, and a number of projects BCRF investigators are working on to understand how DCIS progresses to invasive disease, to predict which DCIS cases will become invasive breast cancer, and to improve DCIS treatment.

Additional Reading

In 2016, BCRF announced an initiative to improve the ability of academic researchers to access drugs in development for both preclinical research and clinical trials. The ASCO Post interviewed Dr. Marc Hurlbert, Chief Mission Officer of BCRF, about the initiative as well as BCRF’s research goals in general and the metastatic breast cancer research that it funds.

*Sources: BCRF’s website, audited financial statements and IRS Form 990

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Contributing to Breast Cancer Charities

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