'Army of Women' Unite for Breast Cancer Cure

Movement tries to mobilize one million American women for breast cancer battle.

Oct. 2, 2008— -- The day a woman learns she has breast cancer is one of the most difficult moments in her life.

"The day I found out about breast cancer: Devastating. I was really like a deer in the headlights," said Tamar Rosenthal, a breast cancer survivor. "My heart wouldn't beat right. ... I was having pain in my chest all day. It was like, 'Why me? Why is this happening?'"

Dr. Susan Love is trying to answer such questions. Along with the Avon Foundation, she has launched the "Army of Women" Web site in hopes of gathering the largest pool of women in history for breast cancer research.

The organization's goal is to build a database of one million women for breast cancer research. So far, 30,000 have signed up.

"We need all types of women. We need all types of ethnicities," said Love, president of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. "We need all ages, because if we're going to figure this out, we need to represent everybody that might get breast cancer."

Researcher Dr. Sylvia Formenti said the pool of women will prove to be an invaluable resource.

"To have one million women," Formenti said. "That's the uniqueness of this project."

Breast cancer research has been hampered by a reliance on lab animals, Love said. But no longer.

"If we're going to figure it out, we have to figure it out in women," Love said.

To register and join the database, women simply go online and enter their basic information, including their name, birthday and zip code. From there, researchers can contact them to participate in various trials.

Rosenthal's participation goes beyond her own struggle.

"When my daughter was only 5 years old, I had to tell her I had breast cancer," Rosenthal said. "It's a horrible thing to have to tell a child. I don't want that to happen to anybody."

Up until now, the focus of breast cancer research has been primarily on diagnosis and treatment. Rather than conducting research that focuses on killing cancer cells, the Love/Avon army hopes to shift that emphasis onto causes and prevention of breast cancer.

Love's foundation currently is researching areas such as a Band-Aid test strip that could determine if a woman is susceptible or predisposed for developing breast cancer, and the relationship between pregnancy at a young age and decreased risk of breast cancer.

Love hopes this initiative will eradicate breast cancer in the lifetime of women alive today, by finding a cure.

Healthy women are key to understanding who gets breast cancer and why, Love said.

"They can be high risk," Love said. "But we also want those women who have no breast cancer in their family and really have nothing to do with breast cancer, because those women may have real clues."

Sandy Eddy has never had breast cancer, but she joined the Love/Avon army after her best friend, Deborah Nicholson, died of the disease.

Eddy was with her at the end.

"At that moment, I knew she knew that I was there," Eddy said, "and I felt she was, in her way, saying, 'Sandy, you've got to do something.'"

For more information on the Army of Women, visit their Web site.