Breast Cancer Survivorship

A future filled with thriving breast cancer survivors

There are 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. Some have been cured, others cope with the very real threat of recurrence, and those who are actively battling the disease manage the presence of cancer day by day.

From the day of her diagnosis, a woman becomes a breast cancer survivor forever. At the Vera Bradley Foundation Center for Breast Cancer Research, our work is empowering survivors to live life with strength and resiliency.

We’re helping women live longer, but we also need to help them live better.

Tarah Ballinger, MD — Vera Bradley Foundation Scholar in Breast Cancer Research

Understanding survivorship

Our investigations focus on patients’ physical and mental wellbeing during and after treatment, and—for those whose cancer-free futures are less certain—all the times in between.

Goal: Create a comprehensive approach for survivors to address the unique physical and psychological issues they face.

Goal: Create a continuum of survivorship care to conduct and implement research so that every newly diagnosed patient, whether she has early-stage or metastatic cancer, will have her functional issues addressed at the beginning.

Target: Muscle toxicity

Another important part of survivorship is musculoskeletal health. Muscle and fat may impact not only quality of life and physical function, but also survival.

Vera Bradley Foundation Scholar in Breast Cancer Research Tarah Ballinger, MD, is studying women who take aromatase inhibitors—drugs that keep estrogen-hungry tumors from developing. Joint pain and muscle weakness force many patients to stop taking the medicine.

Dr. Ballinger’s project focuses on the cellular mechanisms of such toxicities. Patients are donating muscle biopsies and participating in exercise strength testing. As part of the research, they receive low-intensity vibration by standing on a platform at home.

Survivorship research addresses the benefits of exercise for women before, during, and after cancer treatment for early-stage breast cancer. Surprisingly, survivorship research doesn’t currently address women with stable, metastatic disease.

Investigators at the Vera Bradley Foundation Center are embarking on research to determine if lifestyle changes that passively impact treatment and recovery for early-stage cancer patients will also impact late-stage survival.

Learn More

At the 2021 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), investigators from the Vera Bradley Foundation Center presented findings from a study comparing differences in patients of African versus European ancestry with early-stage breast cancer.

Studying data collected during a previous clinical trial, they found that body weight of women with African ancestry had a significant impact on the rate of cancer recurrence and death. African American patients were twice as likely to be severely obese, and these same patients were twice as likely to have a recurrence.

Empowering women with information about what they can personally do to affect the trajectory of the disease is extremely important.

Tarah Ballinger, MD — Vera Bradley Foundation Scholar in Breast Cancer Research

About the Vera Bradley Foundation Center for Breast Cancer

To date, the Vera Bradley Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit fundraising organization, has committed more than $50 million to advance breast cancer research and treatment in Indiana and around the world.

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