Frequently asked questions

Most frequent questions and answers

Significant advances have been made in breast cancer treatments, especially in the early form of the disease. Despite that, breast cancer unfortunately has not yet been eradicated and more research is needed. Incidence rates of breast cancer in women far exceed those for other cancers in both developed and developing countries. In 2022 about 2,3 million people were diagnosed with breast cancer, making it the most diagnosed cancer in women worldwide. That same year, 666,000 women died of breast cancer. (Source: Globocan 2022).

Thanks to genomic research directed at cancer cells over the last decade, we now understand that breast cancer is not one single disease, but multiple different types. We also know that all patients are different and require a unique treatment approach. New diagnostic tools for genomic analysis, combined with new targeted therapies based on cancer sub-type, are enabling more personalised, effective treatments for individual patients. This, in turn, improves patient survival and quality of life.

While breast cancer is certainly more common among women, men can be affected too. Men represent less than 1% of all breast cancer cases. Evidence has shown that younger women are increasingly being affected by breast cancer. Of the 2.3 million new breast cancer cases diagnosed in 2020, 29% were patients under age 50. In comparison, if we look at all cancers, 18% of total diagnosed cases are in patients under 50. (Sources: Globocan 2020)

Prevention and awareness among both women and men are critical to reducing the number of cancer cases and ensuring that cancer is detected early, for the best chance of a cure. However, research is essential to reach the ultimate goal of curing all types of breast cancers, including the more advanced or rare forms. Research is the only way to understand the disease, how and why it progresses, and what can ultimately stop it

Join us today and make a BIG difference in the lives of the patients we serve.

BIG stands for the Breast International Group, an international not-for-profit organisation devoted entirely to breast cancer research. BIG was founded in 1999 by Drs Martine Piccart and Aron Goldhirsch, who shared the idea of avoiding unnecessary duplication of effort and waste of time and resources. BIG was therefore established with the objective of facilitating research and collaboration among the scientific community outside the United States.  Today BIG is the world’s largest network of academic research groups dedicated to curing breast cancer, reaching approximately 70 countries across 6 continents. BIG connects thousands of hospitals and scientists, who collaborate on pioneering breast cancer research. BIG also collaborates closely with the US National Cancer Institute and its network of research groups. To raise funds for its own research, BIG set-up a philanthropy unit in 2012, known to the public as BIG against breast cancer.

Knowledge is power…and shared knowledge is even more powerful.

BIG’s vision is “to find a cure for breast cancer through global research and collaboration.”

BIG is led by an Executive Board of world-class breast cancer specialists, chaired by Professor David Cameron, and supported by BIG Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. The Executive Board proposes the strategic direction of BIG’s research based on its expert knowledge, and this is discussed and endorsed by the General Assembly of member groups. In recent years, BIG has prioritised metastatic breast cancer, as this most lethal form of breast cancer has seen little progress in previous decades, as well as rarer forms of the disease.

Breast cancer has been classified into multiple sub-types, each requiring different approaches to treatment. In order to test new treatments on enough patients within a sub-group, and to be confident about the results, most research cannot be limited to one institution or even to one country. Large-scale international cooperation is crucial to make significant advances in treating breast cancer, reduce the wasteful duplication of efforts, and best serve those affected by the disease.

BIG is both global and local: the work and findings of the research conducted by our international network are shared with the global scientific community and benefit patients locally.

Many BIG studies have been practice-changing, for example changing how we treat young women with breast cancer (SOFT and TREAT trials), providing a safe alternative to tamoxifen for patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer who suffer from the drug’s side effects (BIG 1-97, BIG 2-97 and BIG 1-98), leading to a major breakthrough in treating HER2-positive breast cancer (HERA), or helping physicians evaluate which women with early breast cancer could be spared chemotherapy after surgery (MINDACT).

More recent examples include the OLYMPIA study, which showed a reduction in relapse and death for women with inherited BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations when treated with the drug olaparib, and the POSITIVE study, with first results indicating that women may safely pause their endocrine treatment to try to have a child.

Read more about our major achievements here.

When BIG works with the pharmaceutical industry, it does so in a way that is “win-win” for all. Specifically, all BIG trials respect specific principles of research conduct that ensure that data collected are handled and analysed independently, generating highly credible results. In addition, patients are followed for years after treatment ends, to ensure the detection of any long-term side effects. BIG studies are also governed by committees and policies aiming to reduce bias and answer questions importnant to patients. Finally, the processes surrounding access by scientists to precious tumour and other tissues donated by patients for future research are subject to strict rules to ensure that only the best research ideas are supported. Running studies in this way holds tremendous potential for patients and promises long-term gains to society, in all regions of the world.

BIG’s investigators also initiate and run clinical trials and programmes without industry partners, often to find answers to questions that have no inherent commercial interest but for which answers could lead to significant improvements for patients and society as a whole: how can drugs best be combined or sequenced with others to optimise patient treatment? Can expensive treatments be given for shorter durations without having an impact on patient outcome? Are there better ways to use “old” or “generic” drugs?

  • BIG is the largest and only truly international body of academic collaborative research groups focused exclusively on developing, conducting and coordinating patient-centred breast cancer research;
  • BIG focuses on developing better treatments and cures and is distinguishable from other organisations by the fact that it conducts its own research. This means that any funds it raises through its philanthropic unit BIG against breast cancer therefore goes directly to support its own research rather than to third parties.
  • Although involving patient advocates to advise the development and conduct of its studies since the early 2000s, more recently BIG has established a Patient Partnership Initiative to ensure that patients contribute to the design of BIG studies from the earliest possible time point. This ensures that patients are active partners in defining BIG’s scientific priorities and that their voices are heard and valued in shaping the future of cancer research and care.
  • BIG follows strict principles of research conduct that aim to eliminate bias from the research process, both when working with the pharmaceutical industry or when working alone.
  • Finally, BIG has the ability to achieve faster results and greater patient benefits by:
          – Engaging its network to rapidly enroll large numbers of patients into complex international   clinical trials;
          – Sharing best practices, expertise and data in pursuit of answers to important scientific questions.

BIG receives funding from several sources. Its dedicated philanthropy unit – BIG against breast cancer – conducts vital fundraising to help finance academic clinical trials and research programmes that have no commercial interest but are crucial for patients with breast cancer. Support is raised through events and received from foundations, corporate partnerships, and many generous individual donors.

BIG also receives membership fees from BIG groups, and fees from pharmaceutical industry partners for clearly defined management activities that the BIG Headquarters and/or BIG member groups provide in connection with clinical trials. BIG is also the recipient of grant funding from the European Commission.

All of BIG’s research activities, whether undertaken with commercial or academic partners, adhere to BIG’s Principles of Research Conduct. These principles are designed to ensure that, while trials meet industry requirements from a regulatory standpoint, BIG and its members remain responsible for determining the research agenda, for ensuring that the study design is relevant and in the best interest of patients, for controlling the clinical study data, and for presenting and publishing research findings (positive and negative) according to academic standards. In this way, BIG preserves its scientific integrity and patients’ interests while developing and conducting collaborative research with a variety of partners.

Between 2012 and 2023, 93,4% of all funds received by BIG were spent directly on BIG’s research (clinical trials and research programmes).

Depending on the interests and wishes of the donor or partner, funds given to BIG can be used to support different objectives, including the following:

  • Studies: Current and planned clinical trials or research programmes require funds to cover a wide range of costs: operational set-up, recruiting patients, administering patient treatments, collecting and banking tumour samples for future research, conducting research on the collected samples, data collection and storage, analysis of results, and sharing of data.
  • Operations: BIG’s Headquarters operates with a small staff of about 40 people who support the entire BIG research network. BIG Headquarters’ activities include the core functions of any organisation, such as finance and human resource management, information technology and communications, but also provision of medical, scientific and project management expertise needed to develop and run the highest quality clinical trials and research programmes.
  • Events & campaigns: BIG’s philanthropy and communications teams work hard to raise funds for BIG’s research and to raise awareness about the role that BIG’s research plays in improving the lives of women and men with breast cancer. Events and campaigns organised by BIG are an essential means to convey the messages that breast cancer affects us all, and that research saves lives.
  • Any company or individual wishing to support BIG can contact BIG against breast cancer to explore the various opportunities available: philanthropy@bigagainstbc.org.

When making a donation to BIG against breast cancer, BIG’s philanthropic unit, you are offered the option of receiving a regular newsletter and other communications. In these, you will receive news about the progress of our studies, as well as other ways of supporting research, such as attending events, digital campaigns, and more.

Depending on a donor’s home country, the local benefits may be direct or indirect. If a donor’s home country is part of BIG’s international network, and if research groups and their affiliated hospitals participate directly in BIG’s research, they and their patients can benefit directly, whether from new treatments or other results and advances generated by this work. Ultimately, the world at large benefits from BIG’s research when new knowledge about breast cancer is generated, study results are published, and new treatments studied by BIG contribute to improving the standard of care for breast cancer patients.

Every act of support contributes to BIG’s research, crucial for developing cures for breast cancer. Giving is also contagious in a positive sense; help us spread the word.

  • Join our philanthropic community – BIG against breast cancer –  and stay in touch with news about BIG’s progress against breast cancer.
  • Introduce BIG to your professional network.
  • Donate for any occasion. Think BIG for a birthday, Mother’s Day, anniversary,a gift in memory of a loved one, or to commemorate a family member or friend who has battled breast cancer. You can do this by making a transfer to our bank account or with the MoveforBIG platform.
  • Attend one of our fundraising events held throughout the year.
  • Give in-kind (e.g., artwork from your own collection or an exquisite experience) for auction to benefit BIG.

Support BIG’s research now!

Donations of € 40 or more are tax deductible in Belgium.  BIG will issue your tax receipt. Tax efficient donations from outside of Belgium are possible through the Myriad alliance for borderless giving and Transnational Giving Europe (TGE).

For any questions about giving from outside of Belgium, please contact philanthropy@bigagainstbc.org.

Supporting BIG is supporting researchers who work hard to develop cures for women and men with breast cancer all over the world!
During recent years, BIG has expanded the number and types of excellent collaborations with the corporate world, and we are very proud to be able to count on the loyalty of our partners.

Be involved, be creative …

Various options are available for your company to support BIG’s breast cancer research. For example:

  • Financial Corporate Sponsorship: Your company can choose to become a yearly sponsor or donate money to support a specific event or campaign that is aligned with your corporate identity.
  • In-Kind Corporate Sponsorship: Support a BIG event or one of our awareness and fundraising campaigns by offering graphic design, translation, or photography services, providing goodies or prizes for raffles, or making venues available to host our events.
  • Media Corporate Sponsorship: Help us raise awareness of BIG against breast cancer and its mission by covering our promotional costs in various media channels such as TV, radio, paid advertisements, and sponsored articles.
  • Cause Marketing: Join a cause that is close to your heart and an association that reflects the values of your company, and let your customers know about it. Support BIG by allocating a percentage of the sales from your products or services to breast cancer research.
  • Gift Matching Programme: Engage your employees who may be directly or indirectly affected by breast cancer. Implement a donation matching program that encourages your employees to contribute, while the company commits to matching each donation.
  • Corporate Fundraising Challenge: Launch an innovative challenge for your employees through our platform MoveforBIG.org. By doing so, you not only foster team spirit within your company but also raise valuable funds to advance breast cancer research.