Women's College Research Institute

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Government of Canada and Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation invest in national research program led by Dr. Steven Narod on Breast Cancer in Young Women

From Connect, June 30, 2014

Dr. Steven NarodEarlier this month, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute for Cancer Research (CIHR-ICR) announced a $5.7 million investment to support a pan-Canadian research team investigating breast cancer in young women.

This award is the result of a recent competition involving a proposal by Dr. Steven Narod, a senior scientist at WCRI and director of the Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit for a new research project. Dr. Narod’s application was one of five projects from across Canada selected for funding, and together these projects form the winning research program. The program will be led by Dr. Narod and will be hosted at Women's College Hospital.

This program, entitled “Towards better outcomes for young women with breast cancer: A Pan-Canadian Collaborative,” includes four sub-projects for a total team of 62 researchers and clinicians at 44 institutions and clinics across Canada. The research aims to better understand the unique biology of breast cancer in women under 40 and its implications for prevention, risk reduction and delivering care that addresses their distinct needs.

“Breast cancer in this age group tends to be more advanced at the time of diagnosis, more aggressive and more resistant to treatment. Prognosis is therefore generally worse for women under 40 years than for older women. That’s why this research program is so important,” said Dr. Narod.

The program brings together Canada’s best minds in breast cancer research to address gaps not currently served by existing funding. This national network of breast cancer researchers will establish a Canadian Young Breast Cancer Cohort comprised of 1,200 newly-diagnosed young women with all stages of breast cancer from 28 sites across Canada. The team will also assemble a retrospective database of 3,000 women who have previously been diagnosed with breast cancer when they were under the age of 40 in order to assess longer term outcomes related to recurrence and survival. 

Despite the fact that breast cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths in women 20 to 40 years of age, little research has been done specifically on breast cancer in younger women and early onset sporadic breast cancer is poorly understood. It is estimated that 24,400 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, of which four per cent will be under the age of 40.

This research could lead to significant changes in clinical practice and policy, as well as information to enable women to make more informed decisions about their lives during and after breast cancer. This funding is one of the largest amounts ever granted in Canada to study breast cancer in young women, and the program is among the largest ever undertaken in this area.

Dr. Narod's work has already made many significant contributions to research on breast cancer and has impacted the lives of thousands of women in Canada and around the world. This new research funding will allow Dr. Narod and his team to continue developing this essential work even further. 

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