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Grantees of the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Prevention Research Initiative Gather in Houston to Report Interim Findings

Unique Collaborative Meeting Includes Leading Scientists Investigating

Pregnancy and Breast Cancer Prevention

HOUSTON, Nov. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Eighteen scientists investigating novel means for primary prevention of breast cancer by studying the natural impact of pregnancy on breast tissue met at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston on Monday, November 12, 2007 to share interim findings. All are part of the unique Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Prevention Research Initiative, one of many Avon Foundation-funded programs seeking new directions in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.

The meeting, convened by the Avon Foundation and Baylor College of Medicine, brought together a network of grant recipients who have been challenged through the Breast Cancer Prevention Research Initiative to use different approaches to address the question: what changes occur in a woman's breast tissue during pregnancy that alter her future risk of breast cancer. The goal is to identify the changes that reduce breast cancer risk and seek ways to provide the protective benefits to all women, regardless of reproductive history.

Pregnancy is associated with profound physiological changes in breast tissue and results in complex, age-dependent effects on breast cancer risk, with a transient increase in risk immediately following pregnancy, followed by long-lasting protection or risk, dependent upon age at first full-term pregnancy. Women who have their first full-term pregnancy before the age of 25 are at a decreased lifetime risk of breast cancer compared to women who never have children or who have a first pregnancy after the age of 35. Although the mechanisms that mediate pregnancy related changes in human breast tissue are poorly understood, it is hoped that a better understanding of these changes might lead to the development of innovative prevention strategies.

While specific interim data will not be released to the public because it is in the early stages, Dr. Marc Hurlbert, Scientific Director of the Avon Foundation, notes that, "we wish to bring the model of this program to the attention of the public and other researchers since collaborations and sharing of interim data is not a typical practice in research. The Avon Foundation hopes to be a change agent in the process of research as well as in the actual studies we fund."

A few of the areas of investigation in the Breast Cancer Prevention Research Initiative include:

-- New techniques to assess physiology and permeability in a woman's

breast under development by Dr. Dixie Mills, Clinical Research

Director, Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. These techniques move

away from reliance on animal models and biopsy of specimens, and

instead study the physiology of the "living, intact breast."

-- Dr. Christine Erdmann, PhD, MPH, University of Michigan, School of

Public Health, reported her work analyzing epidemiology population data

from prior studies to understand the interactions of critical risk

factors, including age at first pregnancy, body mass index, and alcohol


-- Several doctors provided very preliminary reports on their efforts to

understand which genes and proteins change after pregnancy in breast

tissue that could have a later impact on breast cancer.

"These are novel lines of research that will help in the fight to better understand and prevent breast cancer," said Dr. Daniel Medina, Professor, Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine. "Baylor is proud to host this collaborative meeting with the Avon Foundation."

"The Breast Cancer Prevention Research Initiative is breaking traditional paradigms," noted Dr. Dixie Mills, "first, by providing funds to support these unusual research studies, and then by fostering collaboration. The Avon Foundation first hosted the grantees in New York in 2006 and now we are together again at Baylor. Twelve months into this multi-year initiative we are sharing data and discussing barriers to success. We will go back to our research after this meeting with fresh ideas and approaches to more rapidly advance our studies."

Attendees include representatives from Baylor College of Medicine, Dana- Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Johns Hopkins University, Marin County Department of Health, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Kansas Medical Center, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Michigan, University of Michigan School of Public Health, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

About the Avon Foundation and the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Houston

The Avon Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity founded in 1955 to improve the lives of women and their families, with a mission now focused on breast cancer and domestic violence. Through 2007 Avon global philanthropy in 50 countries worldwide has raised and awarded more than $580 million, including $525 million raised by the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade to advance access to care and finding a cure. The major fundraising program is the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer series, and the first-ever Avon Walk Houston is slated for April 12-13, 2008. Baylor College of Medicine will be serving as the Medical Sponsor for the inaugural walk year in Houston. For more information: 866-505-AVON or visit

SOURCE Avon Foundation; Baylor College of Medicine
Copyright©2007 PR Newswire.
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