The Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP) and the breast cancer advocacy community suffered a tremendous loss when Ms. Karin Noss, Chair of the Fiscal Year 2008 (FY08) BCRP Integration Panel, died of metastatic breast cancer on Saturday, February 16, 2008. Karin was a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who served almost 21 years on active duty as a missile launch officer and intelligence analyst. First diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995, she had been living with metastatic breast cancer for the past eight years. She was 36 years old when she discovered a lump that was misdiagnosed by mammography and clinical exam; just over one year later, however, she was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. Karin's diagnosis inspired her to become knowledgeable about her disease, including the latest research, clinical advances, and legislative support for breast cancer. She was a leader in local, state, and national breast cancer advocacy organizations, and she was President of the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation (VBCF), having served previously as Vice-President and Chair of the foundation's advocacy committee. Karin represented the VBCF on the Board of Directors of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) since January 1998, and she was a member of NBCC's Metropolitan Washington Chapter, serving on several NBCC committees. Karin had also served on the Y-Me National Breast Cancer Organization Board of Directors and as President of the Y-Me National Capital Area Affiliate.
A graduate of both the basic and advanced Project LEADŽ science training courses developed by the NBCC, Karin began participating as a consumer reviewer in BCRP scientific peer review panels in 1997. She was committed to making a difference and ensuring that the voice of consumer advocates was heard by the scientific community, once noting that "We challenge the scientists to think differently and they challenge us." Since 2006, Karin served as a member of the BCRP Integration Panel, providing critical and insightful guidance for the program and earning the deep admiration and respect of all who worked with her. At the time of her passing, she was serving as Co-Chair of the technical planning committee for the BCRP Era of Hope Meeting, which is a forum to report to the public on the progress of the research funded by the BCRP. She often affirmed, "As a consumer advocate and someone living with metastatic breast cancer, I believe I have personally benefited from some of the research."
Karin demonstrated an amazing strength, determination, and commitment to eradicating breast cancer. She was an optimist, determined to make things better for women with breast cancer, and she hoped that biomedical research would always stay one step ahead of her. Karin worked tirelessly in support of the BCRP, even through her fatigue and the pain of her disease, as a consumer reviewer and as a compelling advocate to Congress. Just a few weeks before her passing, Karin served what would be her final role for the BCRP when she chaired the FY08 Vision Setting Meeting, an important milestone at which the program determines which award mechanisms to offer in order to move research forward. Karin said that "Consumer involvement in all facets of the BCRP has proven crucial to ensuring not only that the best and most innovative science gets funded, but that the science will really make a difference to those of us living with the disease." In honor of her position as the FY08 BCRP Integration Panel Chair, the BCRP has dedicated its efforts throughout this year to the enduring memory of Karin Noss.