The DOD BCRP was created in 1992 as a result of the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s “$300 Million More” campaign to increase federal funding for breast cancer research. Due to NBCC’s efforts and the Congressional leadership of Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Alfonse D’Amato (R-NY) in FY1993, Congress appropriated $210 million in the DOD research and development budget for a breast cancer peer-reviewed research program administered by the Department of the Army. As a result of NBCC’s grassroots advocacy and the DOD BCRP’s demonstrated success, Congress has appropriated funding for it each year since.
Since its inception, the DOD BCRP has sought to “accelerate high-impact research with clinical relevance, encourage innovation and stimulate creativity, and facilitate productive collaborations.” It has grown from a small research program to a far-reaching, influential model that others throughout the cancer and broader medical research community have sought to replicate. Some of the
keys to the DOD BCRP’s success are:
• It is innovative and unique. The DOD BCRP has a unique grant structure that allows it to be more flexible than other traditional competitive, peer-reviewed medical research programs. This structure can fund innovative, high-risk, high-return research and quickly respond to current scientific advances. The DOD BCRP can also fill gaps by focusing on promising but otherwise underfunded areas of research. In its reviews of the DOD BCRP, the Institute of Medicine has stated, “the program fills a unique niche among public and private funding sources for cancer research. It is not duplicative of other programs and is a good vehicle for forging new ideas and scientific breakthroughs in the nation’s fight against breast cancer.”
• It is efficient. Due to the program’s flexibility, the Army can administer it with unparalleled efficiency and little bureaucracy. The program allows approximately 90% of the appropriated funding to go directly to competitive, peer-reviewed research grants awarded to the best science.
• It is accountable to the public and transparent. Information on all funded grants is posted on the program website accessible to the public. In addition, educated, trained consumer advocates participate in a two-tiered process where research proposals are reviewed for scientific quality and programmatic relevance. This consumer involvement allows grant funding decisions to be informed by trained breast cancer survivors and based on both the patient and medical communities’ concerns and needs. It provides for those who have no agenda other than to end breast cancer for everyone. This transparency allows scientists, consumers, and the public to view the progress made in breast cancer research through the DOD BCRP.
• It has produced extraordinary results. From new methods of extracting breast cancer cells at their earliest stages, to unprecedented research into gene/environment interaction, to quality-of-life issues, the DOD BCRP leads the way in generating new approaches to breast cancer prevention and treatment. It has produced fascinating insights into the biology of breast cancer. It has directly impacted lives through the research it has funded, such as the revolutionary work that led to developing the innovative drug Herceptin.
The DOD BCRP also owes its success to the integrated efforts of its partners – from the ongoing dedication of the U.S. Army and their belief and support of this mission, to the Members of Congress who support the program through continued funding, to the scientists and consumers who participate, and to the researchers who every year submit proposals that reach the highest level asked of them by the program.