Cancer research has become a global enterprise, and the number of researchers, as well as the cost for their activities, has skyrocketed. The budget for the National Cancer Institute of the United States National Institutes of Health alone was US$5.2 billion in 2015. Since most of the research is funded by public money, it is perfectly legitimate to ask if these large expenses are worth it. In this brief commentary, we recapitulate some of the breakthroughs that mark the history of breast cancer research over the past decades and emphasize the resulting benefits for afflicted women. In 1971, only 40% of women diagnosed with breast cancer would live another 10 years. Today, nearly 80% of women reach that significant milestone in most developed countries. This dramatic change has afforded breast cancer patients many productive years and a better quality of life. Progress resulted largely from advances in the understanding of the molecular details of the disease and their translation into innovative, rationally designed therapies. These developments are founded on the revolution in molecular and cellular biology, an entirely new array of methods and technologies, the enthusiasm, optimism, and diligence of scientists and clinicians, and the considerable funding efforts from public and private sources. We were lucky to be able to spend our productive years in a period of scientific upheaval in which methods and concepts were revolutionized and that allowed us to contribute, within the global scientific community, to the progress in basic science and clinical practice.
Groner, B. L., & Hynes, N. E. (2016). Breast Cancer Patients Have Greatly Benefited from the Progress in Molecular Oncology. PLoS Biology, 14(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2000314