By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
Framingham/Boston – Breast cancer survivor Ellie Anbinder of Framingham is determined to help find what causes the disease. She co-founded and serves as executive director of Find the Cause Breast Cancer Foundation, formerly known as Art beCAUSE. While its name changed last year, the Framingham-based nonprofit organization continues to fund scientific research on environmental causes of breast cancer and educate the public on prevention.
As in past years, scientists will explain how the funds are invested to donors attending the foundation’s 15th annual Gala, scheduled for Tuesday, May 29, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Fairmont Copley Plaza, 138 St. James Ave. in Boston. Emceeing the event is Candy O’Terry, co-founder and president of Boston Women in Media & Entertainment. Honored as an advocate for women’s health and cancer prevention will be style and beauty expert Gretta Monahan.
Anbinder explained, “The foundation is based on our belief that the environment is triggering the rise in breast cancer. The big organizations are mostly about cure, treatment and awareness; they’re not asking why and what are the causes. We don’t know the cause for sure yet because the science hasn’t been funded sufficiently.”
Immediately upon hearing her diagnosis in 1991, Anbinder began questioning its cause. She was shocked because there’s no history of breast cancer in her family.
“That was a long time ago when we were just learning about breast cancer,” she noted. “We now know that 90 percent of us have no family history – and that includes me.”
She was among the first board members of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC), founded in 1991. The MBCC contributed to Massachusetts becoming the first state to declare breast cancer an epidemic. Additionally, MBCC founded Silent Spring Institute to investigate the link between breast cancer and the environment.
“It didn’t sit well with me that millions of dollars were going into treatment, but we still didn’t know the cause,” Anbinder said. “No one could give me the answer to why I have breast cancer, so I concluded that the cause must have come from outside of my body.”
In 2000, she co-founded Art beCAUSE with Joyce Creiger, an art gallery owner at the time. They decided to use some of the art gallery profit to fund breast cancer research.
“It was initially a very lovely, esoteric kind of business plan, but not a really good one,” Anbinder acknowledged. “As our mission grew, people asked what we did. We were trying to find the cause for breast cancer, so we finally – and appropriately – changed the name.”
Anbinder has observed a gradual evolution in the general public’s reaction since the organization’s inception to now.
“People had told me that I was wasting my time,” she relayed. “Now, there’s a difference with more talk about the environment and toxins, but there’s still not enough research. Ninety-three percent of all monies raised in breast cancer research goes to treatment, to the cure. That doesn’t leave much to figure out the causes.”
Find the Cause gives scientists preliminary seed grant money, allowing their projects to advance to the next levels. Over the years, the foundation has given seed grants ranging from $5,000 to $60,000. Anbinder is hopeful that funding scientific research will help find the breast cancer cause within the foreseeable future.
“We’ve already given close to $1 million for research,” she noted. “I’d like to know that my five grandchildren will live in a world that’s a lot healthier than the one we’re in now.”