New US Research Committee on Breast Cancer and the Environment

Nick Mulcahy

August 19, 2010

August 19, 2010 — In the United States, a new advisory committee will develop and coordinate a federal research agenda on environmental factors that might be related to the development of breast cancer.

The 19-member Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee will also do the same for genetic factors related to breast cancer.

The environmental causes of breast cancer have been a hot topic for some time among academics, clinicians, and the general population. A huge variety of potential culprits have been put forward, including underwire bras, antiperspirants, and more recently household cleaning products. Indeed, in September 2003, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) created the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Centers (BCERC), a network of 4 national centers. The purpose of the BCERC is, according to its Web site, to support teams of scientists, clinicians, and breast cancer advocates in the study of the impact of environmental exposures that might predispose a woman to breast cancer.

The creation of the Coordinating Committee evidently signals an effort to provide more direction and coordination for breast cancer research that has federal involvement.

The committee was established by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), to "review all breast cancer research efforts conducted or supported by federal agencies," according to a press statement.

Furthermore, the committee will develop recommendations to "improve existing research programs" and will "create a comprehensive plan to expand opportunities for collaborative, multidisciplinary research, and develop a summary of advances in federal breast cancer research."

The first meeting of the Coordinating Committee will take place at the end of September in the Washington, DC area.

Diverse Group of Committee Members

The Coordinating Committee is comprised of 19 voting members, including representatives of federal agencies; nonfederal scientists, physicians, and other health professionals from clinical, basic, and public health sciences; and advocates for individuals with breast cancer.

"The broad range of expertise and insight of these individuals will ensure the federal research portfolio continues to advance our understanding of the critical links between our environment, our genes, and our health," said Linda Birnbaum, PhD, director of NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program in a press statement.

Members of the committee are:

Christine Ambrosone, PhD: member, Board of Scientific Advisors, NCI; and professor of oncology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York

Sally Darney, PhD: acting national program director, Human Health Research Program, US Environmental Protection Agency

Suzanne Fenton, PhD: reproductive endocrinologist, NIEHS

Vivian Pinn, MD: director, Office of Research on Women's Health, NIH

Marcus Plescia, MD, MPH: director, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Gayle Vaday, PhD: program manager, Breast Cancer Research Program, Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, US Department of Defense

Shelia Hoar Zahm, ScD: deputy director, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, NCI

Michele Forman, PhD: professor of epidemiology, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston

Michael Gould, PhD: professor of oncology, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Sandra Haslam, PhD: professor of physiology, Michigan State University in Ann Arbor

Ronda Henry-Tillman, MD: medical director, Women's Oncology Clinic; and director, Cancer Control Arkansas Cancer Research Center, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock

Kenneth Portier, PhD: statistician, American Cancer Society

Cheryl Walker, PhD: professor of carcinogenesis, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Janice Barlow, PHN, CPNPC: executive director, Zero Breast Cancer

Beverly Canin: president, Breast Cancer Options

Alice Chang, PhD: president and cofounder, Academy for Cancer Wellness

Karen Joy Miller: founder and president, Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition

Laura Nikolaides, MS: director, Research & Quality Care Program, National Breast Cancer Coalition

Jeanne Rizzo, RN: president and CEO, Breast Cancer Fund


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