How Far Have We Come With Metastatic Breast Cancer Research Funding?

How far have we come with metastatic breast cancer funding?
Patient Power - October 2022

For many people with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), the math doesn’t add up. A 2014 report by the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance (MBC Alliance) revealed that MBC research received about 7% of breast cancer research dollars in North America between 2000 and 2013. Yet about 30% will go on to be diagnosed with metastatic disease, otherwise known as stage IV. Another 6% of patients are diagnosed initially at stage IV.

“It’s like triage in an emergency room,” said Kelly Shanahan, MD, a METAvivor board member living with MBC. “If you have three people walk into emergency rooms simultaneously, and one is a high school student who sprained her ankle playing soccer, the second one is a mom who sliced the tip of her finger off cutting the morning bagels, and the third one is a gunshot victim, take the gunshot victim first. It should be the same way, I believe, with research dollars. Research dollars should go to metastatic disease.”

The report became a call to action. During the nearly eight years since the report’s release, advocates have worked to educate the public about MBC and argue for more MBC research funds. Many rallied behind the idea of “30 for 30” – if 30% of breast cancers diagnosed at an early stage later become metastatic, then MBC research funding should account for 30% of breast cancer research funding.

By the end of 2022, MBC Alliance’s goal is to release the first phase of its next report of the latest numbers on MBC funding. It will include much more than just a dollar figure, however; this report will go on to analyze what kinds of funding are being provided at a granular level. The results will guide the organization’s strategic goals and priorities.

“There’s been a lot of time [since the last report], and the field has been moving very quickly. We needed a new check-in,” said Margaret Flowers, PhD, who has led the research grants analysis for the MBC Alliance Landscape Analysis Update II and is managing director of the research program at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). “This will not only allow us to look at the amount of money that has been directed towards MBC, but to ask some very important questions that are important to patients. Where’s the money being spent, and what is the potential of that investment to impact patients?”

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