Cancer-Causing Viruses Identified in Human Breast Tumors, According to New Research

Findings Presented at the Avon Foundation Annual Breast Cancer Forum; Event Gathers More Than 100 Breast-Cancer Researchers, Doctors and Others Funded by Foundation Grants


NEW YORK, NY (March 4, 2011) – Certain viruses with the capacity to cause cancer have been found in breast cancer tissues according to research presented earlier this month at the Avon Foundation for Women Annual Breast Cancer Forum in New York City.


In a study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco and University of California, Berkeley, human papilloma virus (HPV), and bovine leukemia virus (BLV) were found in malignant human breast tissues.


These preliminary findings raise the hope that the presence of those viruses may help to identify women at risk of developing breast cancer, according to Gertrude Buehring, Ph.D. and Kimberly Baltzell, PhD, the study’s leaders. However, they emphasize that further studies are needed to compare the frequency of these viruses in breast cancer tissues compared to normal breast tissues to determine the magnitude of the potential risk. These stimulating findings highlight the important need for research funding in this area to either rule out, or in, a potential role for viruses and/or other infectious agents in breast cancer etiology.


Baltzell’s presentation was one of 20 over the two-day event intended to shed light on the causes of breast cancer, and new diagnostic and preventative strategies to address the disease. The Avon Foundation’s annual Forum gathers experts from the Foundation’s more than 300 breast cancer related research and access to care beneficiaries, including advocates and renowned scientists and physicians representing major cancer centers, academic medical centers and universities, including the eight Avon Comprehensive Breast Cancer Care Centers of Excellence.


This year’s Forum, which was focused on research, attracted more than 100 participants. The Avon Foundation provides nearly $40 million to fund breast cancer research and access to care annually. For more information on the Avon Foundation’s breast cancer funding, please click here.


“Dr. Baltzell and Buehring’s compelling preliminary findings about potential links between breast cancer and viruses illustrate the tremendous potential that researchers working today have when it comes helping us understand the causes – and potential prevention strategies– of this complex disease,” said Dr. Marc Hurlbert, director of Avon Breast Cancer Crusade. “It’s a critical part of our mission to facilitate the sharing of ideas and information among the amazing group of researchers, clinicians and others that the Avon Foundation funds to help eradicate this disease. We are thrilled to see the caliber of work coming from the Baltzell and Buehring team and the Avon Foundation’s other beneficiaries.”


Other findings presented at the Forum include:


• Immediately following pregnancy, there is an increased risk of breast cancer for up to 5 years or even longer. However, women who undergo their first full-term pregnancy before the age of 30 have a greatly reduced risk of breast cancer after menopause, according to research presented by Pepper Schedin, PhD, University of Colorado Denver and Jose Russo, MD, Fox Chase Cancer Center. This line of research seeks to better understand breast cancer risk and to potentially develop new ways to reduce risk and prevent the disease.


• African-American women experience higher breast cancer mortality than white women, which is partly attributable to their development of poor prognosis tumors and differences in access and treatment, according to research from Ruth O’Regan, MD of Emory University/Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence.


Avon Foundation for Women
The Avon Foundation for Women, the world’s largest corporate-affiliated philanthropy focused on issues that matter most to women, was founded in 1955 to improve the lives of women. Through 2010, Avon global philanthropy has donated more than $800 million in more than 50 countries for causes most important to women. Today, Avon philanthropy focuses its funding on breast cancer research and access to care through the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, and efforts to reduce domestic and gender violence through its Speak Out Against Domestic Violence program. Avon also responds generously to provide support for relief and recovery efforts in times of major natural disasters and emergencies. 


Avon Breast Cancer Crusade
Since the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade launched in 1992, Avon breast cancer programs in more than 50 countries have raised almost $700 million for research and advancing access to care, regardless of a person’s ability to pay. The Avon Foundation for Women – the world’s largest corporate-affiliated philanthropy focused on issues that matter most to women – awards funding to beneficiaries ranging from leading cancer centers to community-based grassroots breast health programs to support breast cancer research and access to care. In addition to receiving generous support from Avon Products, Inc., and its sale of Avon “pink ribbon” products, the Foundation raises funds through a variety of events and walks, such as the U.S. Avon Walk for Breast Cancer series, which is the Foundation’s largest fund-raising source.