Dr. Xinhai Yang, M.D., Ph.D

Boston University School of Public Health

“Seed the Scientist,” a ground breaking effort to combat breast cancer, was launched at a festive event November 8, at the State Room in Boston.

Sponsored by Art beCAUSE, the occasion highlighted the $10,000 donation presented to grant winner and principal researcher Dr. Xinhai Yang, M.D., Ph.D, Boston University School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health.

Authorities have long believed that there are environmental causes underpinning this devastating disease. Now prevalent among younger women, the epidemic is growing rapidly and must be stamped out. Art beCAUSE is a non-profit committed to making ours the last generation to suffer this way.

Thus, Dr. Yang’s proposal, “The Role of an Environmental Chemical Receptor, the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor in Breast Cancer Cell Survival,” speaks to this mandate.

Each year 1.2 million people in the United States, 98% women, learn they have breast cancer. One in seven receive this diagnosis and 40,000 will die.

We now know that breast cancer is associated with natural estrogens and other hormones. Certain chemicals, found in common household products, can mimic estrogen. More than 100 of these are capable of creating breast cancer cells in the lab.

Carcinogenics such as diesel fuel, grilled meat and smoked food, as well as a genetic predisposition, are among the known toxins.

Therefore, Art beCAUSE is establishing “seed” money to help discover a cure. We are supported by a growing number of donors and volunteers who recognize the urgency to terminate this disease. Many of them (including myself, now 14 years cancer-free) have battled the onslaught and survived.

We are often asked about our unusual name. It draws from the contribution of all types of artists with a connection to the disease. A percent of the sale of their work is dedicated to our Foundation.

My colleague and longtime friend, Joyce Crieger, is an artist who conceived the idea of linking the beauty of art with the despair of this frequently terminal illness.

Art, in fact, was in abundance at the November 8 party. It was on display for both silent and live auctions. Also brightening the evening were Dr. Yang’s lovely wife and three year old son.

A native of Beijing,Yang expressed his pleasure at being able to share this “exciting event.” “Although it is a relatively small amount for the demands of our needs,” he said, “I am overjoyed to feel your caring.”

At BU, Yang works under the mentorship of Dr. David Sherr, PhD.

Sherr explained, “It’s as though these cells forget how to die, then grow too fast, and ultimately have an ‘identity crisis,’ which we call ‘metastasized.’”

Sherr and Yang were brought into the “Seed the Scientist” program through the intervention of Art BeCAUSE board member Dr. George Klavens. Acting on a suggestion from his son Jon, a lawyer keenly interested in environmental issues, Klavens talked to Dr. Larry Shulman, chief medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Institute. With Shulman’s guidance, Klavens sent RFP’s (Request for Proposals) to major research institutions. From the three proposals Art beCAUSE received, Dr. Yang’s was selected.

Thus the seed has been planted. May it thrive!