Top Chicago medical centers join Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation to launch Chicago Breast Cancer Research Consortium

Photo of women wearing breast cancer awareness ribbon pins

Three of Chicago’s top medical centers are being convened by the nonprofit Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation to launch the Chicago Breast Cancer Research Consortium (CBCRC), a collaboration that will make clinical trials more accessible to Chicago-area breast cancer patients.

The partnership, funded by a $1.8 million donation from the Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation, includes the University of Chicago Medicine, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University at Northwestern Medicine, and RUSH University System for Health. Consortium trials will be offered at all three health systems, which ensures a diverse patient pool and allows patients to receive treatment in their own communities.

“Reaching a diverse pool of patients across Chicago leads to more robust, equitable research, which leads to a better overall understanding of breast cancer and how to eradicate it,” said Halee Sage, Board Chair of the Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation, which will fund the CBCRC for five years. “And by having many clinical sites, patients can participate without having to forgo care from their primary oncologist.”

Part of the foundation’s donation is earmarked for patient expenses, like travel and childcare.

“We’re removing barriers for patients who cannot afford to participate in trials. They will now get to benefit from these innovative treatments,” said Sage. “We’re incredibly excited to launch the Chicago Breast Cancer Research Consortium with these renowned institutions and fight for a future without breast cancer.”

“The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) commends the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation and its partners, University of Chicago Medicine, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, and RUSH University System for Health on its joint initiative to improve access to clinical trials, particularly for minority populations and those who face barriers to participation,” said Olusimbo Ige, MD, MPH, Commissioner of the CDPH. “This focus reflects CDPH's own investments in comprehensive breast health programs that, through partners, provide screening mammograms, navigation support, and innovative community outreach to Black and Latina women.”

The research will be led by a steering committee comprised of UChicago Medicine breast cancer specialist Rita Nanda, MD, Northwestern Medicine Hematology and Oncology Chief William Gradishar, MD, and RUSH oncologist Ruta Rao, MD.

“Unfortunately, disparities in breast cancer outcomes among different racial groups in Chicago have been observed,” said Nanda, Director of UChicago Medicine’s Breast Oncology Program. “This consortium came from a desire to improve breast cancer mortality and reduce disparities by offering a network of sites where patients can have access to clinical trials without having to travel.”

The consortium’s aim is to launch their first clinical trial in 2024 and to have multiple trials running by 2025. The accumulated research data, along with biological samples and medical images from patients who participate at all three sites, will be housed at UChicago Medicine. Drawing from UChicago Medicine’s infrastructure and expertise in multi-site trials, staff on the Hyde Park campus will ensure centralized communication among sites, making it easier and quicker to conduct studies.

“Our goal is to ensure that all of our patients are included in clinical trials and have the opportunity to benefit from the advances we are making in breast cancer treatments today,” Rao said.

“By harnessing the expertise and research powers of our three renowned institutions, this consortium will not only provide the opportunity for more patients to access clinical trials but will also move research discoveries to innovative treatments faster, helping more patients beat breast cancer,” said Gradishar, who is also deputy director of Lurie Cancer Center’s Clinical Network.

Medical oncologist Rita Nanda, MD

Rita Nanda, MD

Rita Nanda, MD, specializes in the treatment of breast cancer. She has particular expertise in the treatment of triple-negative, early onset, hereditary, and locally advanced breast cancers.

Read Dr. Nanda's profile