Breakthrough Breast Cancer Fund raises $500,000 to hire breast and ovarian cancer researcher

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The HudsonAlpha Breakthrough Breast/Ovarian Cancer Fund raised more than $300,000 and will receive a $250,000 match from the Lonnie McMillian Inspiring Excellence endowment fund, leaders announced Monday, Nov. 17, 2014.

The announcement was made at the Institute’s annual Tie the Ribbons event, which seeks to bring awareness to breast and ovarian cancer and raises funds to support cancer genomics research at HudsonAlpha.

This year’s event, coupled with the Breakthrough Breast/Ovarian Cancer fund, sought to raise funds specifically for the hiring of a new cancer genomics faculty investigator at HudsonAlpha. The institute is seeking an investigator to join the current team of scientists to pursue a greater understanding of genes that are related to breast and ovarian cancers in the hopes of discovering targeted diagnostics and treatments. This new investigator will join a team of some of the most influential and effective scientists in the world.

“These funds will allow HudsonAlpha and our collaborators to greatly speed up our research in understanding and doing something about breast and ovarian cancer,” said HudsonAlpha President and Director Richard Myers, Ph.D. “We do a fair amount of this research now; we need to do a whole lot more.”

The success of Tie the Ribbons and the Breakthrough Breast/Ovarian Cancer fund is due largely to the generosity of HudsonAlpha supporters and the record attendance of more than 950 individuals at Tie the Ribbons.

Guest speaker at Tie the Ribbons was world-renowned geneticist Mary-Claire King, Ph.D., known for discovering the BRCA1 gene mutation and its link to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

“Mary-Claire King’s discovery of genetic linkage in breast and ovarian cancer was a breakthrough for understanding many forms of common disease in addition to cancer,” said Myers. “Not only did Mary-Claire show how inherited mutations contributed to the overall prevalence of breast cancer, the identification of BRCA1 led to a much deeper understanding of how cancer develops, and new strategies for cancer treatment.

“Mary-Claire has also been a tireless advocate for the role of genetics in understanding biology and in addressing important social issues; we are honored to have her here and to recognize her achievements.”

King challenged HudsonAlpha and Huntsville to lead the effort in testing young women at the age of 30, regardless of personal history, regardless of family history.

“All young women in America, regardless of their personal history and regardless of their family history should be offered testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 when they’re about 30 just as part of routine medical care,” said King.

The vast majority of women tested will not have mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2, King said, but for the women who do, they will be able to make a plan that has been shown to greatly reduce the risks of having ovarian and breast cancer.

“A woman should be empowered with this information,” said King. “I don’t think we need to be afraid of knowledge. Our genes are there and they are what they are whether we know about them or not, and we should know.”

During the event, Myers presented King with the 2014 HudsonAlpha Life Sciences Prize for career achievement.

Click to donate to the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Crowdfunding Campaign!