Every summer, dozens of breast cancer advocates gather in the idyllic city of La Jolla, California to embark on an adventure of discovery and awareness by attending the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Project LEAD® Institute. Project LEAD® is an intensive scientific study program that teaches a foundational knowledge of the biology behind breast cancer as well as providing the tools for activists who are interested in becoming involved as NBCC research advocates. Most of the attendees are novices when it comes to complex scientific understanding but the excellent research faculty members teaching the course are able to transmit highly technical information in an accessible and thought-provoking manner.
On July 14th, 2017, 42 women and men became the most recent Project LEAD® graduates. These graduates hailed from 15 states, Puerto Rico & Spain and ranged in age from 28 to 70. In terms of basic science, lectures on the biology of cancer, principles of genetics and the development of cancer at the molecular level were presented at the beginning of the five-day course. The class was divided into smaller, mentor-led study groups to provide a more personalized and relaxed space in which the advocates could ask questions, deepen their understanding of the lectures and work as a team on student projects. Over the subsequent days the faculty gave talks on Epidemiology, covering health outcomes in populations, breast cancer statistics, study designs & risk factors, as well as Immunology, discussing the basic components of the immune system and how to harness its power to prevent & treat cancer. In addition, Fran Visco, the president of the NBCC, and her colleagues explained the current political & public policy priorities and how Project LEAD® graduates can participate in a myriad of consumer advocacy opportunities.
The next Project LEAD® Institute will take place in July of 2018 and applications will be accepted from February 19 to April 18, 2018. Tuition is free to NBCC members who are accepted to the course and includes all workshop materials and meals. Applicants can also apply for need-based scholarships to assist with lodging and travel expenses. More information about the program is available here.