Progressing our breast cancer research

December 10, 2019


cancer diagnosis carries a heavy burden, both physically and emotionally, no matter who is on the receiving end. For some people with cancer, a diagnosis can carry additional and unique challenges, such as self-image issues, an increased feeling of stigma or questions around the feasibility and safety of fertility. These uniquely arduous factors can be true of any cancer diagnosed as they are of breast cancer, and are one of the many reasons we are motivated to immerse ourselves into this research space.


An estimated 2.1 million new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed globally each year, making it the most common cancer among women and the second most common cancer in the world. It’s estimated that 1 in 8 women will develop some type of breast cancer in her lifetime. Breast cancer also affects men, though it is much less common. Globally, less than 1% of all breast cancers are diagnosed in men. However, some breast cancers are caused by inherited genetic mutations, which can be passed down from male and female carriers. 

Breast cancer can be almost as diverse as it is prevalent, which means prognoses and survival expectations can vary widely based on type, stage and tumor characteristics, such as hormone receptor (HR) status and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) status.

Learn more about HR status, HER2 status and how they are used to classify different types of breast cancer here.

The sheer prevalence of breast cancer can - and should - feel staggering, but the treatment paradigm has come a long way in the past thirty years, and so has our ability to detect breast cancer earlier, when it can be more manageable to treat, or prevent it altogether.

Much of this progress can be attributed to the fact that breast cancer treatment is becoming more personalized as we learn more about the disease. For example, detection of mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, the most common genetic mutations attributed to breast cancer risk, can indicate a woman’s likelihood to develop breast cancer later in life, flagging the need for early and regular cancer screenings.

These improvements in the ability to detect, prevent and classify breast cancer for a more targeted treatment approach have made an impact on the landscape. In fact, breast cancer incidence rates began decreasing around the year 2000 after increasing for the previous two decades.

While all advances, big and small, should be celebrated when it comes to a disease as pervasive as breast cancer, there is always more progress to be made. Thankfully, there is a seemingly great amount within reach as the field evaluates more personalized approaches to care.

Every one of us can think of someone we know who has been touched by breast cancer in some capacity, so the drive to expand our research in the landscape is very personal.
Dr. Dana Walker
Dana Walker M.D., M.S.C.E. , Oncology Development Team Lead, Bristol Myers Squibb

Dana Walker M.D., M.S.C.E., Oncology Development Team Lead, Bristol Myers Squibb

“BMS is a leader in advancing research and identifying precision treatment options in oncology,” said Dana Walker M.D., M.S.C.E., Oncology Development Team Lead, Bristol Myers Squibb. “We are more immersed in the breast cancer space than ever before and we look forward to hopefully contributing new and innovative potential treatment options that could positively impact such a large and diverse population.”

“We have been a pioneer in researching new potential treatment options for breast cancer, including bringing some of the earlier treatments on the market, pre-dating a more recent wave of immunotherapy research in the space. Today, we are eager to build upon that history and to expand our vision of advancing science for patients within the breast cancer landscape,” Dr. Walker added.

“Our team is wholly committed to patients and this is just the beginning for us.”