Shifting From Treatment to Cause

When a prominent cancer doctor gets cancer, it’s a reminder that serious disease can come calling on anyone. Dr. Susan Love is at the forefront of breast cancer as a researcher, surgeon, professor and author of the definitive book on the disease. But when she was diagnosed with leukemia,Dr. Love, like everyone else who receives a cancer diagnosis, became a patient.

Treated at City of Hope, Dr. Love is now recovered after receiving a bone marrow transplant from her sister, who fortunately was a match for her. And like other people who survive a life-threatening disease, Susan Love’s life was changed by the experience. “…having cancer myself has given me a new sense of urgency,” says Dr. Love. “We’ve been doing this breast cancer advocacy work for over 20 years. I think we’ve achieved awareness and we’ve raised a load of money, but we really haven’t made a major dent in the disease. We should be finding the cause, not the cure.”

With the awareness that we are all patients, Dr. Love has established the Army of Women Program under the auspices of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, with funding from the Avon Foundation. More than 300,000 women have signed up to learn about the latest research studies. Using crowd-sourcing, the program matches breast cancer researchers with women with and without the disease.

Another initiative of her foundation is the Health of Women (HOW) study, a collaborative project with the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center. The HOW study is a pioneering, international online study of women and men with and without a history of breast cancer. Because its goal is to identify the causes of breast cancer, project researchers periodically collect information from study participants about potential factors that might contribute to the disease, such as general health information, family disease history, lifestyle practices and environmental exposures. As of February 2013, more than 38,000 people have signed up. Although open to both sexes, 99.5% of participants are women, and 82% have never had breast cancer.