Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Helping Fight Breast Cancer - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Helping Fight Breast Cancer

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RICHLAND, Wash.- October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will not only continue research looking for a cure, but they are also kicking the month off with a fundraiser.

The lab just received another $1 million dollars for biomarker research, which could one day allow doctors to detect cancer more than a year before we can now.

The researchers are looking for protein biomarkers in the blood that indicate cancer, potentially saving thousands of lives.

"If we can identify what those proteins are and detect them, these very low level proteins, we have the basis for detecting cancer early. Detecting cancer early gives us the basis for increasing the survivability of cancer patients," said Dick Smith, Director of Proteomics at PNNL. 

The project started about a year ago, and new funding from Congress is allowing them to continue.

The hope is that through early detection, they can design better therapies.

"The gold standard, the dream of cancer biologists is to come up with targeted therapies that are specific for a woman's tumor, that kill the tumor without making the rest of the woman as sick as our current therapies do," said Dr. Karin Rodland, a PNNL Researcher. 

To raise awareness and help fund the project, they're selling breast cancer pins as part of a national effort to find a cure.

"We are excited about jumping in there and going for it this year in a big way. So, we've been doing this for about the past 5 years, and, uh, I'm hoping that we have a banner year," said PNNL representative Vicki Heimbigner

PNNL is working with labs up and down the west coast to expand their capabilities, all with the same goal, saving lives.

There is no timeline for completion of research, but scientists say new technologies are allowing them to narrow down the possibilities every day.