Press Release

UC launches bold initiative to revolutionize breast cancer treatment

| 29 September 2009

The University of California, Berkeley, is one of six UC campuses participating in an unprecedented initiative to study and drive innovations in breast cancer prevention, screening, and treatment. The large-scale demonstration project, called the ATHENA Breast Health Network, was announced Tuesday, Sept. 29 by the University of California.

Initially, an estimated 150,000 women throughout California will be screened for breast cancer and followed for decades through the five UC medical centers: UC San Francisco as the host campus for the project, UC Davis, UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego and UC Irvine. The large size of the study has the potential to significantly impact breast cancer treatment and prevention for the next several decades.

"This initiative will demonstrate that the total of what can be accomplished by UC functioning as an integrated system can far exceed the sum of contributions by the individual campuses," said Dr. John D. Stobo, UC senior vice president for health sciences and services. "ATHENA represents an unprecedented opportunity to play a leadership role in driving critical changes in health care. The public nature of the UC institutions make them uniquely positioned to study the appropriateness and effectiveness of treatment. It also allows for the applied use of new scientific evidence, much of which has been developed in the UC medical centers, to truly change the delivery of care."

Researchers at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health will contribute by developing a system for evidence-based management in the care of breast cancer patients.

"We want to be able to learn from every patient being cared for, not just those that participate in clinical trials," said Stephen Shortell, dean of the School of Public Health and professor of health policy and management. "This effort will provide the infrastructure to construct and validate new measures of quality that will be needed with the evolution of new diagnostic strategies and therapeutic approaches."

Working collaboratively with researchers at the UCSF Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, investigators at UC Berkeley will track patient preferences, physician preference, treatment choices and clinical outcomes. They will also collect information regarding key quality measures for each specialty and provide continuous feedback that will allow comparisons of effectiveness across campuses.

ATHENA is supported by a $5.3 million University of California grant, and by a $4.8 million grant from the Safeway Foundation.

"We are excited to be supporting this innovative collaboration that, to date, has the clearest potential to produce groundbreaking research that will bring us closer to a cure," said Larree Renda, chair of the Safeway Foundation and executive vice president, chief strategist and administrative officer at Safeway Inc.

Other collaborators on the project are the Northern California Cancer Center, Quantum Leap Healthcare Collaborative, the National Cancer Institute's BIG Health Consortium, and the Center for Medical Technology Policy.

Click here to read the announcement of the ATHENA Breast Health Network. Background information and additional details are available on the ATHENA Breast Health Network site.