Breast cancer research continues as care and treatment improve
The supporters of the Terri Brodeur Foundation have raised more than $5 million over the past 15 years. While there is yet to be a cure for breast cancer, that money has funded exciting research into what causes cancer, kick-started the careers of brilliant young breast cancer researchers and practicing physicians and improved the lives of thousands of breast cancer patients across the country.
“Our researchers have contributed to the major themes of progress. We are part of the story,” said Nicholas Saccomano, a founding member of TBBCF and chair of the Scientific Advisory Board that reviews applications for research grants and awards three to four $100,000 grants annually.
“The foundation has breathed life into the careers of young scientists,” he said, and nearly every one of the 52 researchers who have received a TBBCF grant have dedicated their professional lives to helping those with breast cancer. They have gone on to successful careers in the field of breast cancer, both researching and treating patients across the Northeast and as far away as Seattle. They have written 31 peer-reviewed articles for cancer research publications.
It takes about $500 million for a drug to go from an idea to market. But the $5.2 million the foundation has awarded over the years has led to studies of new drugs and immunotherapies to treat breast cancer and new research as to the causes.
‘We’ve eased the suffering of breast cancer patients,” he said.
Fifteen years ago, Saccomano was tasked by a fellow worker at Pfizer Inc. to come up with a plan to distribute donations from a new foundation that would funnel 100 percent of fund-raising dollars to breast cancer research. Norma Logan, who worked for Saccomano, was battling breast cancer and founded TBBCF with Sandy Maniscalco, told Saccomano to figure out how to do it.
“She was a force of nature,” Saccomano said, recalling how Logan called together a group of friends and Pfizer coworkers to help get the foundation off the ground. She named her new organization after a fellow breast cancer patient, Terri Brodeur. Terri Brodeur and Norma Logan went through breast cancer treatment together and both died from the disease before the foundation was fully established.
“Norma left no doubt in my mind that this was a mission I had better complete,” he said recently.
Saccomano, chief scientific officer and senior VP at Pfizer Boulder Research and Development where he is the head of oncology research, knew what he needed to do to complete Logan’s vision. The famous quote from Saccomano at the time, which has endured for 15 years among the foundation founders, is that he said he’d do it and then asked, “What do we do next?”
He gathered a group of brilliant people and formed the Scientific Advisory Board. He recruited Michael Morin, “a card-carrying cancer biologist” at Pfizer who is now president and chief scientific officer of Immunome Inc., and John LaMattina, who was president of Global Research and Development at Pfizer who brought his organizational skills and kept the group focused and on track. He also brought on board Susan Logan, Norma’s sister-in-law, an associate professor at New York University Medical Center, and her husband Michael Garabedian, professor and course director at NYU Medical, for their academic expertise.
“From the start, the group worked well together,” he said.
“We are blessed to have an outstanding SAB that provides TBBCF with tremendous guidance as to which proposals offer the most promise,” said LaMattina.
Each member reviews and rates a set of applications. Then they come together virtually to review the best, narrow the field, and conduct interviews. The group is looking for new ideas for detection, treatment, prevention, and ultimately a cure for breast cancer.
Saccomano said the group wants to invest in the person and the proposed area of research.
“There are so many smart and passionate people out there working on breast cancer research,” he said, adding the foundation’s grant money has contributed to help those researchers expand their knowledge and continue to seek answers.
“Breast cancer isn’t going away soon and neither is the foundation,” Saccomano said. “The good thing is the foundation and all these people have come together and they value life.”