HeritX launches new BRCA prevention research

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

HeritX was founded in 2015 with a clear vision: a world free of inherited cancers for all generations to come.

Our mission is to prevent inherited cancers, starting with cancer caused by BRCA mutations.

The reason we started HeritX is simple. Even though the BRCA genes were discovered in the 1990s, the only way to prevent any of the cancers caused by these mutations is surgery. We believe this needs to change. Better ways of preventing BRCA cancers are possible if resources are directed toward this goal.

We lead innovative new research with our drug development expertise and funding. We also bring the voices of people with BRCA mutations into the early research and development process through our Prevention Advocacy Network (PAN).

We were excited by your response to the Good Morning America segment that profiled our organization and one of our vaccine projects. Thank you for writing to us and asking to be involved with this research.  We will stay in touch.

We are optimistic about this pre-cancer vaccine project, but with research success is never certain. This is why we are maximizing the likelihood of success by investing in multiple ideas and multiple projects.

We are currently launching two new projects focused on finding ways to enhance genomic stability in cells and overcome the impaired DNA repair caused by BRCA mutations.  We are also continuing to receive applications and fund new projects throughout our 2017 funding cycle. You can see our grant program guidelines here.

Medical Research Funding Under Attack

HeritX is unique among medical research funders because we are exclusively focused on cancer prevention rather than cancer treatment. But we do not work in a vacuum.  The larger medical research enterprise provides important support and leverage for our projects.

The U.S. government is a major funder of medical research, primarily through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the world’s leading funder of medical research.  Indeed, NIH research was essential in the discovery of the BRCA genes and in unravelling how these genes cause cancer. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, the NIH’s ability to fund research has been mostly on the decline over the past decade.  The only exception was an increase in funding this year.

But the progress started under last year’s Cancer Moonshot initiative and the 21st Century Cures Act is in jeopardy. As has been detailed by the Washington Post and others, the Trump administration proposed a $5.8 billion cut to the NIH’s budget for next year. The most recent version of the budget circulated by Congress includes more than $7 billion in cuts for the NIH.

The impact on cancer research is significant. Specifically, NIH funding for cancer research between 2013 and 2016 was between $5.2 billion and $5.6 billion. In 2017, funding for cancer research increased to $6,032,000. The projected budget for cancer research in 2018 will be only $4,696,000, a significant decrease over even 2013 funding and a dramatic decrease from this year’s funding. In response, Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) issued this statement:

“Cutting the NIH budget by $7.1 billion would seriously jeopardize the development of new, potentially life-saving cancer diagnostic tools, prevention methods and treatments. It would also risk eroding the basic scientific research that, when combined with private investment, spurs American medical innovation and economic development. Most specifically, the cuts would completely undermine the increases for research secured in the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act meant to accelerate progress against diseases like cancer. (read more at http://www.wltx.com/news/health/budget-cuts-could-impact-breast-cancer-research/457940333.)

Attend the Rally for Medical Research

In response to the budget cuts for medical research the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) started a national day of lobbying for medical research called the “Rally for Medical Research” in 2013. This year’s Rally for Medical Research is on September 13 and 14 in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the Rally is “to call on our nation’s policymakers to make funding for National Institutes of Health (NIH) a national priority and raise awareness about the importance of continued investment in medical research that leads to MORE PROGRESS, MORE HOPE and MORE LIVES SAVED.” Given the unprecedented threat to medical research funding this year, the Rally is critical to bringing the message to Congress that maintaining or increasing funding to the NIH is vitally important.  You can sign up to participate here.

Your support is critical

HeritX works with researchers at the NIH, including at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The unfortunate reality of the current funding situation is that research that could advance BRCA prevention is not being funded. HeritX is currently raising money to fund projects in NCI labs that will not start without HeritX funding.  You can help this research move forward, even in the face of budget cuts, by donating to HeritX now.