Rachel J. Buchsbaum, MD, Director of the Tufts Medical Center Cancer Center and Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology, is pleased to announce that Dominique Michaud, ScD, Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Jennifer M. Bjercke Scholar Award for Breast Cancer Research. The $100,000 award will provide seed funding for Dr. Michaud’s research on epigenetics, which includes the study of how external factors, such as nutrition, lifestyle and environmental exposures, can cause changes to how an individual’s genes work. Dr. Michaud is exploring how these changes – known as epigenetic changes – may affect risk for developing breast cancer, with an overall goal to enhance the ability to identify high-risk individuals prior to diagnosis.
The award was established in memory of Jennifer M. Bjercke, who died of Stage IV metastatic breast cancer in 2018 at the age of 38. Jennifer, who had no genetic mutation or family history of cancer, was passionate about understanding how otherwise healthy people could be diagnosed with breast cancer. With the help of her Tufts Medical Center oncologist, the late John K. Erban III, MD, she explored how certain factors may increase risk, and how reducing those factors could potentially prevent a breast cancer diagnosis.
“While advances in breast cancer research have significantly improved early detection and treatment methods, we are still at the beginning stages of prevention research,” says Dr. Buchsbaum. “Through epigenetics, there is great potential to understand the external factors that may raise a person’s risk, and how we as health care leaders can advocate for action to reduce or eliminate those risk factors.
“All of us in the Cancer Center are grateful for the support of Jennifer’s friends and family who have been inspired by her message. We will honor her legacy through this exciting research collaboration with Dr. Michaud and the university, as we take an innovative approach to disease prevention.”
Says Ulrik Bjercke, Jennifer’s husband, “Jennifer was dedicated to raising funds to support research on the risk factors that can change the biology of a healthy cell into breast cancer. Her goal was to not just support research on the causes of breast cancer, but to help advance efforts that would put an end to the disease, so that no other person would have to suffer from it in the future.”
We invite you to join us in honoring Jennifer and the research she championed by making a gift today to the Jennifer M. Bjercke Scholar Award Fund for Breast Cancer Research at Tufts Medical Center.