Stories and Facts About BCA - Breast Cancer Alliance

Stories and Facts About BCA


The mission of the BCA is to improve survival rates and quality of life for those impacted by breast cancer through better prevention, early detection, treatment and cure. To promote these goals, we invest in innovative research, breast surgery fellowships, regional education, dignified support and screening for the underserved.


The Breast Cancer Alliance was founded in March 1996 by Mary Waterman. Diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, Mary knew that her chances for long term survival were not good. She wanted to help other women fight breast cancer through research, health education, and most importantly early detection. To that end, she and 5 of her friends worked together to found the BCA. Mary died in January 1997. Her courage and determination are a continuing inspiration to us all. The BCA has grown to include a full and active working Board, many volunteers, a Founders Board, an Advisory Council and a Medical Advisory Board.


In the past 17 years over 17 million worth of grant funding has been allocated by the BCA. The majority of funds are raised at an annual Luncheon and Fashion Show held in Greenwich, coLsponsored by the Mitchells Family of Stores for the past 7 years. In addition, we are fortunate to have many other corporate supporters including Anne Fontaine, Field Point Bank, JPMorgan Private Bank, Kekst and Company, McArdle’s Florist and Garden Center, Omnicom, PepsiCo and Vineyard Vines. As a way to recognize and honor top donors and longtime supporters, the Breast Cancer Alliance has established the Leadership Circle.

  • The Leadership Circle honors those who have given in excess of 200,000 to the BCA.
  • The Diamond Circle honors cumulative gifts of 1,000,000 and above.
  • The Platinum Circle honors cumulative gifts between 500,000 and 999,000.
  • The Gold Circle honors cumulative gifts between 200,000 and 499,000.


The BCA funds four types of grants which are offered annually: Exceptional Project Grants, Young Investigator Grants, Breast Surgery Fellowships and Education and Outreach Grants.

Exceptional Project Grants: The Breast Cancer Alliance invites clinical doctors and research scientists at any stage of their careers whose primary focus is breast cancer to apply for an Exceptional Project Grant. This award recognizes creative, unique and innovative research. This is a one year, 100,000 grant.

  1. In 2005 David Rimm, M.S. Ph.D. at Yale Cancer Center helped develop, with the funding from the BCA, a device called “Professor Marvel”. This device helps to provide molecular measurement of tissue samples that is being used as a standard of care for breast cancer. Another aspect of this technology is to predict responses to drug therapy. “The fact that the BCA dared to fund a high risk, somewhat unusual project has produced a series of interesting results.” The platform has been licensed by Yale to a biotech start-up company called HistoRX. HistoRx is now working with Genentech and other companies to produce better targeted therapies to improve breast cancer management and survival.
  2. 2011 BCA Exceptional Project Grant recipient, Yibin Kang, PhD at Princeton University is researching the role of VCAM1 in the activation of dormant breast cancer bone micrometastasis. A manuscript reporting the results from this project was published in Cancer Cell, a well respected, peer-reviewed scientific journal for novel cancer research. As a result of this funded research the substantial preliminary data that was funded by the BCA has helped to attract support from the Komen for the Cure to continue this line of research. This highlights the objective of the BCA to fund innovative pilot studies to leverage additional supports.
  3. In 2012 BCA Exceptional Project Grant recipient, Charlotte Kuperwasser, PhD studied the mechanisms of breast cancer progression associated with obesity. The Charlotte Kuperwasser Laboratory at Tufts University found that fat cells within the breast tissue of obese women produce a hormone-like factor that promotes the recruitment of inflammatory cells into the breast. These findings may provide a novel paradigm to prevent breast cancer in high-risk obese women.

Breast Surgery Fellowships are awarded to Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO)Laccredited institutions for a oneLyear 75,000 term. These accredited institutions may submit requests for funding for fellowships if they are within the tri-state area (NY/NJ/CT.) The BCA began funding breast surgical fellowships in 2005.

  1. The first recipient, Costanza Cocilovo, MD completed her fellowship at the Beth Israel Hospital/Roosevelt Hospital Program. Dr. Cocilovo has numerous publications in national journals and surgical textbooks and has presented nationally on topics in breast surgery. She is currently the medical director of the Inova Breast Care Center in Virginia and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Surgery at Georgetown University.
  2. Brigid Killelea, MD was a BCA Debbie Taylor Breast Surgery Fellow at Beth Israel Hospital/Roosevelt Hospital who is now on our Medical Advisory Board. She is currently a breast surgeon at Yale and assistant professor at Yale Medical School. In addition, she is involved with the breast care of women in surrounding underserved communities.

Young Investigator Grants (YIG): The BCA began supporting the YIG in 2002 to help encourage a commitment to breast cancer research. The BCA invites clinical doctors and research scientists whose primary focus is breast cancer who have been appointed to a position equivalent to Assistant Professor within three years following the appointment, to apply for funding for the YIG. This grant is meant for those at an early stage in their research career. This is a two year 125,000 grant that helps provides seed funding to allow researchers to get the preliminary data they need to go on and apply for larger, longer term grants often with the NIH. To secure federal funding, a researcher must prove a theory works; the BCA creates the critical bridge between novel research and the opportunity to generate preliminary results.

  1. 2012 BCA Young Investigator Grant recipient, Despina Kontos,PhD, Research Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania is researching the effective utilization of breast tomosynthesis using imaging markers to guide personalized screening. The tomosynthesis machine selectively rotates in an arc and takes angled xLray images at regular increments, from which doctors can reconstruct a threeLdimensional breast. This technology relieves the superimposition of images that often occurs in mammography and allows us to see cancers that may be hiding between layers of tissues.
  2. 2012 BCA Masin Young Investigator Grant recipient, Zdravka Medarova, PhD, Assistant Professor in Radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital is researching MicroRNA nanotherapy for the prevention and arrest of lymph node metastatic breast cancer. Her hope is that, using non-invasive imaging techniques, her lab can study ways to deliver gene therapy to locally metastatic breast cancer and determine which drugs, in which doses, might prevent breast cancer cells from metastasizing.

Education and Outreach: The Breast Cancer Alliance offers grants to support programs directly related to outreach and case managerial breast cancer services, including education, counseling and screening for the uninsured/underserved. The programs must be located in Connecticut and/or Westchester County, New York. We invite Directors of programs that are directly related to breast cancer services to apply for this one year grant.

Approximately 85 percent of our Education/Outreach dollars are specifically targeted for screening and preventative services in our community. In 2013, the BCA will be giving 230,000 towards education and outreach including mammogram screening for the uninsured and underserved in twelve institutions in Connecticut and New York. For example, the BCA helped to launch the Stamford Hospital’s mobile mammography van to help an underserved area. Some of the other programs we have funded in this category are: Greenwich Hospital, Hartford Hospital, the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven, Norma E. Pfriem Breast Care Center at Bridgeport Hospital, St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, the Witness Project of Connecticut, and the YWCA Encore Plus Program in White Plains. The BCA newsletter, Outlook, published three times a year, and our benefit journal, are other tools utilized to convey important educational information to our supporters.

In the past the BCA provided a grant to the Lymphedema certification program started by Dr. Michael Emery at Sacred Heart that helps to provide education for professionals in the health care field. This condition afflicts many patients following cancer treatments that involve dissecting the lymph nodes, and this grant helped decrease the cost of this course for physical therapists.

Site Visits

The goal of the BCA is to meet every individual, institution and/or organization that receives BCA funding. The primary purpose of the BCA site visit is to meet the grant recipient and learn about the progress of the research project or education and outreach program. A tour of the program facility or research lab should be included. Site visit presentations are to be given in layman terms and should not exceed two hours. Site visits are scheduled approximately midway through the grant period.

Why We Are Unique

Although there are other breast cancer groups in the vicinity, those familiar with the BCA appreciate the connection to the community and the careful consideration to raising and distributing funds. As a result, volunteers tend to remain actively involved and contributors loyal. Our commitment to attending site visits and developing relationships with our grantees has been critical to our success.

*** January 2013 ***