The Lori Ann Foundation believes in making the lives of women living with breast cancer easier. We understand that diagnosis and treatment of this disease comes with costs – financial, physical and emotional – not just for the patient but for their families and caregivers as well. The Lori Ann Foundation has partnered with several other organizations to bring breast cancer patients what they need.

Since 1990, there has been a steady decline in the death rate from breast cancer. Earlier detection and better treatments are bringing hope to people with both early and advanced disease. But even still, more than 40,000 people die from breast cancer every year in the United States alone. It is still the second-leading cause of deaths from cancer in women. The survival rate for those with advanced, metastatic breast cancer has not changed significantly for decades. In spite of more effective therapies, many patients still experience recurrences of breast cancer after treatment.

Because we still don’t know exact causes of the cancer, we do still need to invest time into research. Understanding the disease at the cellular level could be the answer.

Breast cancer stem cells - the first to be identified in a solid tumor - were discovered in 2003 by scientists at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. These scientistsT found that just a few cancer stem cells are responsible for the growth and spread of breast cancer. If the cancer stem cells are destroyed, the tumor is less likely to come back and metastasize.

Because cancer stem cells are resistant to traditional chemotherapy and radiation, new treatments are currently being researched and developed to directly target these deadly cells.


Finding the cure for cancer begins at the microscopic source – the cells that metastasize and form the disease. The Lori Ann Breast Cancer Foundation believes that it is here where the search for prevention, treatment and the cure should begin. The Lori Ann Breast Cancer Foundation will give 20% of all funds raised to our partners dedicated to cell-based research to help us find an end to this illness that causes so much pain and suffering to so many people.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are what scientists call "adult" or "tissue" stem cells. Since most cells in the body live for a short time, the body needs to keep making new cells to replace them. Adult stem cells ensure a continuous supply of new cells to replace old cells that wear out or are destroyed.

Stem cells properties are different from normal cells:

They divide – Stem cells can divide to make themselves.

They differentiate – Stem cells can differentiate to make specialized cells called progenitor cells that go on to form the organs and tissues in the human body.

They duplicate – Every time a stem cell divides, it makes one exact copy and one progenitor cell. When the progenitor cell divides, it produces two cells that are somewhat more specialized. Each generation of new cells is more specialized than the previous generation until, eventually, mature cells are produced.

They divide indefinitely – Many cells can divide to make copies of themselves, but they can only divide a certain number of times before they die. Stem cells can keep dividing indefinitely. Because stem cells are essentially immortal, the body keeps them under tight control, so they will divide only when a new supply of cells is needed.

How do scientists identify breast cancer stem cells?

All cells have a unique pattern of proteins on their surface membranes. All breast cancer stem cells have a surface protein marker called CD44, along with very low levels or no levels of two markers called CD24 and lin. Scientists can separate cells with this combination of protein markers from millions of other cells in a tumor sample using specialized equipment.

Do breast cancer stem cells cause metastasis?

Although the exact cause of metastasis is unknown, it is known that stem cells are involved in the process. Recent research found that cells from tumors with a higher percentage of cancer stem cells were more likely to break away and spread.

Why are women still dying from breast cancer?

Advances in mammography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) screening for breast cancer have made it possible for doctors to see breast tumors when they are very small. When physicians can diagnose and treat breast cancer early, they often can remove the tumor with surgery and prevent a recurrence.

If malignant cells leave the primary breast tumor and migrate to other parts of the body, treatment is more difficult. Chemotherapy and radiation will kill most malignant cells and shrink the tumor, but the cancer often comes back, because these therapies don't kill the stem cells. Metastatic cancer is often what causes the death of women with advanced breast cancer.