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Community Outreach: Breast Cancer and the Environment

By Colleen Chandler
January 2006

From left: Les Reinlib is program director in DERT and serves on the program committee that advises the network on research issues. Gwen Collman, chief of the Susceptibility and Population Health Branch in DERT, provided a summary and analysis at the close of the 2005 annual conference for the Breast Cancer and the Environment Resources Centers. High school students Leah Goldman and Karen Brachot worked with a center-funded scientist looking at environmental links to breast cancer at Tufts University Medical Center. (Photo courtesy of GNBCC)

NIEHS, along with NCI, sponsored the Breast Cancer and the Environment Resource Centers conference Nov. 9-11 in East Lansing, Mich. The conference is an annual event, and the 2005 conference focused on early environmental exposure.

The BCERC program is a network of collaborative research centers comprised of scientists, clinicians and advocates who focus on the interaction between chemical, physical and social factors with genetic factors on breast development. According to the BCERC web site, the $35 million project will span 7 years.

The centers that make up the network are located at:

  • The Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
  • Michigan State University in East Lansing.
  • University of California, San Francisco.
  • University of Cincinnati.

NIEHS representatives serve on the steering committee, which governs the network. Another committee, a working group of the National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council, advises the centers network, provides information on potential areas of interest and makes recommendations on future research. It also provides progress reports and updates to the NIEHS director, according to the BCERC web site.

The program was organized by the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition on Long Island, N.Y. to provide support for students interested in research. The girls learned techniques used to assay environmental chemicals, biological responses and structural and functional changes in mammary gland tissues. AVON, another sponsor of the annual conference, provided a travel grant for the girls to attend the conference, where they presented a poster of their work and met with scientists and advocates. Lauren Weinberg, right, is the director of the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition.

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