BCRFA donates $1 million to O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama presented its largest donation ever of $1 million to the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Since its inception in 1996, the BCRFA has made an annual donation to research with proceeds from all of its fund-raising efforts during the prior year, including sales of a special breast cancer research license plate, BCRFA events, and individual and community support. This year’s contribution brings the Birmingham-based organization’s cumulative total for breast cancer research at UAB to more than $8.7 million.

“The Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama is critical to making our breast cancer research program one of the best in the country,” said Michael Birrer, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB. “BCRFA is a perfect example of motivating the community to support new and evolving research. Without their support, we could not conduct important pilot studies or provide bridge funding.”

BCRFA’s funding has provided the seed money for many projects to get off the ground. For example, diabetes is associated with poor breast cancer prognosis and a higher mortality rate than in non-diabetics. Lalita Samant, Ph.D., professor in the UAB School of Medicine’s Department of Pathology and associate director of Education and Training at the O’Neal Cancer Center, has been investigating the hyperglycemic state of triple negative breast cancers. Triple negative cancer cells have been shown to be more aggressive and capable of suppressing the immune system, preventing it from recognizing and killing the cancer cells. With BCRFA funding, Samant and her team will now examine whether combining a diabetes drug with a treatment that targets triple negative breast cancer cells will improve outcomes. This study will likely lead to a clinical trial for diabetic triple negative breast cancer patients.

Other projects range from evaluating new vitamin A-related molecules to develop drugs for preventing breast cancer to research that will focus on improving the long-term effects of cancer therapies on breast cancer survivors.

“As a breast cancer survivor myself, I am thrilled that we are able to invest $1 million in lifesaving breast cancer research this year,” said Jill Carter, BCRFA board president. “Without the support of our sponsors, donors and community partners, this record-breaking donation would not be possible.”

Community support during 2018 included 20 Alabama fire departments that participated in the Pink Ribbon Project, selling T-shirts during October to raise funds and awareness, along with dozens of other businesses, schools, churches and individuals who used grassroots fundraising to raise money for breast cancer research. About half the total donation was also raised through the BCRFA specialty car tag sales, with 100 percent of funds going toward research.

Several corporate and community partners of BCRFA include Tameron Automotive, The Thompson Family Foundation, Sirote & Permutt, The Alabama Power Foundation, Renasant Bank, Wind Creek Wetumpka, Protective Life Foundation, Thrivent Financial, Spectrum Reach, and iHeart Media, among many others.

The BCRFA supports a comprehensive approach to battling breast cancer through collaborative partnerships and innovative research. All BCRFA donations remain in Alabama to support research at the O’Neal Cancer Center.

“Patients come to the Cancer Center because they can be seen by clinical breast cancer experts and receive ‘cutting-edge’ therapies based upon our phenomenal breast cancer research program,” Birrer said.

The naming of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB will be formally considered for acceptance by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees at its February meeting.