Spotlight: Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation

love_cvo_headshot_0The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation (DSLRF) — known until 2000 as The Santa Barbara Breast Cancer Institute — is known for its commitment to translating the science of breast cancer into a language laypersons can understand. Led by Dr. Susan Love, author of the widely acclaimed and influential Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book (read a BCC review here), Dr. Love and the foundation are committed to engaging the public and scientific communities in identifying the causes of breast cancer in order to develop means for prevention and cure. By working with basic science and its clinical applications, DSLRF fills a gap in our basic understanding of how useful any particular intervention is likely to be.

As an early breast cancer activist, Dr. Love has always been committed to bringing advocates and researchers to the same table to work toward the same ends. Love’s Army of Women project, for example, matches volunteer study subjects (with and without breast cancer) with researchers to accelerate the arduous process of breast cancer research. A founder of the National Breast Cancer Coalition in the 1990s, she played a key role in developing NBCC’s Project LEAD (Leadership, Education, and Advocacy Development), an intensive training program designed to prepare advocates to provide input into what research projects received funding, how projects are designed, and how the public is informed of the results. Project LEAD graduates now sit on the review boards of many types of research committees, most notably perhaps the Department of Defense (DOD) Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP).

In her regular blog column Research Worth Watching (RWW), Dr. Love shares some of the recent studies that shed light on how breast cancer works and/or what these studies can and cannot tell us about how to treat the varied forms of the disease. After reviewing notable studies on precision medicine, for instance, she shares the implications of the research:

“More recently, new technologies that allow for molecular mapping within tumors have revealed that tumors are quite heterogeneous, or having different subtypes within it and with different cells carrying different mutations. This suggests that individual tumors are a lot more complicated than we had initially thought. Several recent papers have highlighted this observation and are sending everyone back to the drawing board.”

— Research Worth Watching: “What is Normal?”, Sept. 24, 2015

The key insight is that focusing treatment on the eradication of just one type of cell may not be as successful as researchers and clinicians once believed.

 What we love about DSLRF is its evidence-based approach, critical advocacy, and commitment to ensuring that accurate scientific information about breast cancer reaches women, informs policy, and impacts the direction of research. And as the Chief Visionary Officer of the organization, Dr. Love appreciates the limitations of pink ribbon awareness and the industry it fuels.

While the monolithic cure language of taking action for “a future without breast cancer” exists with the DSLRF brand, along with a dash of pink…

slider-actwithloveDr. Love herself is quite practical about the limitations of both science and language.

As she explained in her October 13, 2011 blog piece, Metastatic Breast Cancer: Telling the Whole Story:

“I can’t tell you how important it is that there is at least one day in October that is dedicated to acknowledging that not everyone is cured and not every cancer is found early. We need to stop congratulating ourselves on our progress and start focusing on figuring out why these women have not benefited from all the money we have raised. Reach out today to someone you know [who] represents the other side of breast cancer, the one that is not so pink. We will not have accomplished this goal as long as one woman dies of this disease!”

And in an interview with the Los Angeles Times about pink hued awareness campaigns, she said,

“Awareness, we’ve done that. We can check it off. To spend money on having the NFL wear pink or lighting buildings in pink — I don’t think that’s the wisest use of money anymore. Now it’s actually doing something about it.”

“Doing something about it” from an evidence-based perspective is what this science lover/activist/surgeon is all about. Her activism and contributions to the public understanding of, and debates on, breast cancer are nothing short of extraordinary. She also understands that no single group can be all things to all people and that progress in breast cancer necessarily requires a diversity of approaches that cannot be encapsulated in a pretty pink ribbon.


Susan Love Biography

Susan M. Love, MD, MBA has dedicated her professional life to the eradication of breast cancer. What began as a career in the 1970’s quickly turned into a mission and as chief visionary officer of Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation (DSLRF), Dr. Love oversees an active research program centered on breast cancer cause and prevention.

Dr. Love has always been a pioneer and entrepreneur. Her reputation as an activist comes from her role as one of the “founding mothers” of the breast cancer advocacy movement in the early 1990’s, as one of the founders of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC). President Clinton appointed Dr. Love to the National Cancer Advisory Board, on which she served from 1998-2004.

Dr. Love started the first all-women breast center in Boston, then went on to develop a model for multidisciplinary breast care at the Revlon/UCLA Breast Center. After inventing an intraductal catheter at UCLA she recognized that she could develop it further in the for-profit arena and started Pro•Duct Health Inc. (later acquired by Cytyc Corporation). In addition to being DSLRF’s chief visionary officer, Dr. Love was a founder and served on the board of Windy Hill Medical, a breast cancer prevention company.

Known as a trusted guide to women worldwide through her books and the Foundation website, Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book was termed “the bible for women with breast cancer” by The New York Times. Dr. Susan Love’s Menopause and Hormone Book, first published in 1998 and revised in 2003, was one of the first to sound the alarm against the long term use of postmenopausal hormones. Live a Little (Crown 2009) encourages women to take a reasonable approach to becoming healthy. The sixth edition of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book was released in September 2015 along with a Spanish translation El Libro de la Mama.

A true visionary, Dr. Love’s notable projects include the Army of Women®, a creative internet solution partnering women and scientists with the goal of accelerating breast cancer research. In October 2012, the Foundation launched the Health of Women [HOW] Study™, an online cohort study with the goal of identifying the cause of breast cancer.

In June of 2012, Dr. Love was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. She returned to work in January of 2013 more determined than ever to find the cause of cancer and end it once and for all.

Dr. Love is a Clinical Professor of Surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and lectures nationally and internationally on breast cancer, menopause, and women’s health. She has been awarded six honorary doctorate degrees, as well as numerous honors and citations. She also has a business degree from the Executive MBA Program at UCLA’s Anderson School.

Dr. Love received her medical degree from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York and did her surgical training at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital. She has retired from the active practice of surgery to dedicate herself to the urgent work of breast cancer prevention through finding the cause.

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