Nan Van Den Bergh got some good news Saturday: Researchers are making strides in the fight against breast cancer.
The Florida International University professor, diagnosed in July with non-hereditary breast cancer, joined dozens of survivors at a seminar hosted by a cancer support group.
There, they learned that a blood test that can detect a gene problem common in breast-cancer patients may be available soon.
The news came from Patricia Berg of the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, DC, who spoke Saturday morning at Gilda's Club of South Florida in Fort Lauderdale as part of the club's second annual ``Day of Research and Hope.''
Gilda's Club is named for Gilda Radner, the Saturday Night Live star who died of ovarian cancer in 1989.
''I was very pleased with the talk,'' said Van Den Bergh, 56, who added: ``We have an epidemic of breast cancer among women.''
Berg led a team that discovered last year that a gene -- known as BP1 -- doesn't function properly in 80 percent of breast-cancer cases.
She says a blood test for problems with the gene might be only two years away. Drugs to treat the defect are being developed.
Berg's team continues to examine whether BP1 might have anything to do with other forms of cancer.
Jo Esman, 53, of North Miami Beach, has also fallen victim, having been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999.
''This is really huge for me,'' she said after the speech.
Despite the good news, Berg said, there's also reason to worry.
With the war in Iraq and concerns about terrorism eating up much of the federal budget, researchers are finding their budgets falling short.
''I am all for protecting against bioterrorism,'' Berg said. ``But while recognizing its potential danger, we must also recognize the already existing real devastation for the people and families who have been hit by cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other dread diseases.''
Berg encouraged her audience to contact state and federal lawmakers in an effort to increase funding.
Saturday's event was one of many for Gilda's Club, which offers free support and activities for people affected by cancer, including families of victims.
''It's a one-of-a-kind facility,'' Esman said.
For more information, call Gilda's Club at 954-763-6776 or visit www.gildasclubsouthflorida.org.
Patricia Berg, who last year led a multi-university team that discovered a new gene, will be the keynote speaker for a ''Day of Research and Hope'' at Gilda's Club South Florida.
Gilda's Club is a free not-for-profit, non-residential, social and emotional cancer support community, named after Saturday Night Live's Gilda Radner, who died of cancer. The speech will beging at 11 a.m. today at 119 Rose Drive in Fort Lauderdale.
Berg, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., will hold a news conference following the speech, at about 11:45 a.m.
Berg and her team helped discover BP1, a gene that activated in 80 percent of breast cancer patients. Earlier, she had discovered and published accounts that BP1 is involved in leukemia, and she is testing its involvement in other cancers.
Today,she will discuss her discovery and progress toward new drugs and diagnostic tools in cancer, including a blood test for early detection of the new gene and drugs that may suppress it or be helpful in breast cancer.
The event is free to the public. For information, call 954-763-6776.