Frequently asked questions

Most frequent questions and answers

If you are enrolled in a BIG study, please direct any questions you have to your study doctor or nurse.

For breast cancer patients in general: please direct any questions you have about your situation or your care during this pandemic to your healthcare team.

The websites of professional organisations whose members are involved in cancer care have prepared information available to healthcare givers and patients. A few of these websites are listed below. Of course, wherever you are in the world, please be sure to follow the recommendations issued by your government.

Fondation contre le cancer: Coronavirus and Cancer
ASCO: Coronavirus Resources
ESMO: COVID-19 and Cancer
ABC Global Alliance: Coronavirus 2019 and Cancer

The study teams of each BIG trial, together with the study partners, are constantly monitoring the pandemic situation and any potential impact on patient recruitment, treatment or follow-up. Patients are informed directly via their study nurse at their hospital.

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 2018 an estimated 2.1 million female breast cancer cases were diagnosed (i.e., 11.6%of all new cancer cases worldwide in 2018). That same year, 627,000 women died of breast cancer. (Source: Globocan 2018).

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 2.09 million new breast cancer cases diagnosed in 2018, 32% were patients under age 50. In comparison, if we look at all cancers, 19,9% of total diagnosed cases are in patients under 50. (Sources: Globocan 2018)

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 created in 1996 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. The organisation became a legal entity in 1999. Today BIG is the 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 Dr 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).

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 and 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;
  • 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;
  • 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 –, with the help of a prestigious group of ambassadors, 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 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. In the past, BIG has also been 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.

In 2019, 94,1% of all funds received by BIG were invested directly in 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 one of three different objectives:

  • 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.
  • Education: Funds raised support workshops and other activities with the objective of enabling early-career scientists or clinicians to gain hands-on experience with the world’s leading breast cancer experts and to contribute directly to ground breaking scientific discoveries. This includes work aimed at building the capacity of research groups working in developing or emerging regions.
  • 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.

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.
  • Create a Facebook birthday fundraiser @BIGagainstbreastcancer

Support BIG’s research now!

Donations of € 40 or more are tax deductible in Belgium.  BIG will issue your tax receipt. BIG maintains a “Friends of BIG” fund in the United States via the King Baudouin Foundation US, which also permits tax-deductible donations. BIG also benefits from a relationship with Transnational Giving Europe (TGE), which enables tax-deductible donations from many countries all over the world. Please contact us to find out if your home country is a member of this organisation.

Donate today.

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 …

With different packages, your company can support breast cancer research; for example:

  • CSR patronage packages: Having your company associated with a leading international organisation in breast cancer research can only be positive. Such a partnership helps refine your corporate identity and your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitments. This package entails a long-term, stable engagement between your company and BIG, through a donation or a global partnership.
  • My-employees-count packages: With such a high incidence rate, breast cancer greatly impacts employees and their family members confronted with the disease, and ultimately business life. You can choose among various attractive packages, including information sessions, sports activities (Move for BIG), corporate events, or sponsoring CSR patronage packages.
  • PINK marketing packages: What about taking the opportunity to engage your customers through your brand? Simply allocate a percentage of your total turnover, or a percentage of the sales of a specific product or service, to breast cancer research. It’s the opportunity to communicate your support for a cause that touches many women and men in our communities.
  • Preferential partner: As a sponsor of one of our philanthropic activities, by providing financial support (covering part of our communications, venue, or catering costs) or by giving in-kind, your company can become a preferential partner.