Why Is Metastatic Breast Cancer Research Important?
In honor of National Cancer Research Month, we sat down with one of our advocates, Rebecca Timlin-Scalera, who is also the founder of a non-profit foundation “The Cancer Couch” to discuss the importance of research for metastatic breast cancer. Her foundation exclusively funds research for metastatic breast cancer (MBC) and to date, in just three years, The Cancer Couch has put well over 2 million dollars into MBC research. Hear what she had to say.
Why is metastatic breast cancer research important?
Stage IV is the only stage of breast cancer that is not able to be cured. The focus has always been on the earlier stages, so we have decades to catch up on for stage IV, or metastatic breast cancer (MBC). For 70% of early-stage breast cancer patients, the treatments are successful and the cancer doesn’t come back, but for 30% of those diagnosed at an early stage, their cancer does metastasize to MBC - and then it is terminal. Many early-stage patients do not even know this or that there is no cure once breast cancer metastasizes. Despite a large number of early-stage patients (30%) who will metastasize and the 6-10% diagnosed with stage IV from the beginning. MBC/stage IV has been woefully ignored and underfunded for decades. When we hear that the death rate among breast cancer patients has dropped by 40% since the 1980s - this is amongst early-stage patients.1
What are the biggest obstacles for research/funding for MBC?
Lack of awareness is the biggest issue. This occurs on both sides. Patients aren’t always made aware that 30% of early breast cancer patients will metastasize. They don’t understand the urgency since they don’t know the risk. Also, because we have gotten so far behind, researchers find it harder to get traction and move forward.
Tell us about your work for the Cancer Couch Foundation?
The main goal or area of focus is to create more awareness and funding exclusively for metastatic breast cancer.
In terms of work with The Cancer Couch Foundation I wanted to share that although we are still playing catch up in terms of funding and research for stage IV, people should know that the funds the Cancer Couch Foundation has raised have gone to help support studies which produced 3 papers in the last year. This is amazing and helps provide more treatment options for MBC.
Personally, for me, I wanted to share that as of April 1, my scans show no evidence of disease. I am 8 months into this trial after metastasis to my brain, bones, liver and adrenal glands.
I think precision medicine is the wave of the future. My hope is that we can find a treatment that treats specific types of cancer. If you are stage IV I recommend getting genomic testing done. It is helpful to know the mutations that drive your cancer to find a treatment or trial that might work for you. The trial I am currently on is not specifically for breast cancer, but a general cancer trial. Remember to advocate for yourself and look outside the box!
How can people help raise awareness for MBC research?
We will be launching an online campaign to spread awareness and funding for MBC research. “Reason 4 Freezin Metastatic Breast Cancer.” Additional details will be coming soon on www.thecancercouch.com. Stay tuned!
Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to share that on Saturday, December 14, 2019, Rebecca passed away. Rebecca’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.
Do you have an MBC mentor/mentee?