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Former NBC Correspondent Kristen Dahlgren Launches Pink Eraser Project to Fast-Track Breast Cancer Vaccines

Former NBC Correspondent Kristen Dahlgren Launches Pink Eraser Project to Fast-Track Breast Cancer Vaccines

By Kristen Dahlgren
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On January 30, 2024, I took a giant leap. I went on national TV to announce that I was quitting my longtime dream job as a network correspondent. I was a regular on the TODAY Show’s curved couch and could often be found reporting from far-flung parts of the globe for Nightly News with Lester Holt. Then, before millions of viewers, I left it all, vowing to dedicate my life to the Pink Eraser Project, an effort to accelerate breast cancer vaccines. 

If that doesn’t give you some idea of how strongly I believe in the science and this unique moment in history, let me explain how I got here: 

Last fall, I had a conversation with UW Medicine’s Dr. Nora Disis that changed my life. Disis had been working on cancer vaccines for three decades, but had just recently reached a tipping point where vaccines for breast cancer were not only possible, but already in trials. I was shocked. As a journalist and cancer survivor myself, I had no idea! This is not pie in the sky, someday thinking—breast cancer vaccines are close.

Dr. Disis explained, “We know how to produce the body’s immune response and which parts of breast cancer we can target to kill tumors, and for the first time in history, we have safe, affordable, effective vaccine technology.” 

She detailed her own trial of a vaccine for a type of cancer called HER2+. After ten years, over 80 percent of patients who had received the optimum dose were alive. The median survival rate for late-stage HER2+ cancer is only five years.

I was blown away. Dr. Disis explained that she wasn’t the only one doing this type of research, but that the current system for funding research was slow, and filling trials could be difficult. By her best estimate, she said we would have breast cancer vaccines in 20-30 years—unless we could somehow promote collaboration and streamline the process. 

Upon hearing those words, it felt like the sun came out for the first time in years. A vaccine that would mean my cancer would never come back? Every time I got a headache, I wouldn’t panic that the cancer had spread? My little girl wouldn’t have to grow up wondering if there was a ticking time bomb inside of her? All the Stage 4 friends I made over the years would have a chance to LIVE?  

Of course, I would help do that. There was no other option.

So, in late January, lawyer and breast cancer advocate Michele Young and I officially launched the Pink Eraser Project. We assembled the top breast cancer vaccine researchers and brought together the most brilliant minds in finance and fundraising. We are talking about partnerships between the government and the biopharma companies who could build and distribute the vaccines. We hope to raise the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to find vaccines for all breast cancer subtypes and everyone worldwide. 

That means breast cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence in parts of the world without diagnostics or treatments. Everywhere on the planet, safe and affordable vaccines could be used therapeutically or in those with high risk who choose it. As someone who went through breast cancer treatment, I dream of a day when nobody has to endure the disfiguring, painful, and often permanently debilitating options available now.

We simply cannot afford to wait. With 1 in 8 American women diagnosed in her lifetime, this is a disease that, in some way, touches us all. It’s time for action.

Trust me, I have already asked myself why a journalist is spearheading a cancer cure, but the question isn’t “Why me?” it’s really “Why not me?” “Why not all of us?” This is a movement and a moment where we could change the world, banding together to say, In this day and age, deaths from breast cancer are simply unacceptable. From the letters and posts I have received, I know there are so many out there in desperate need.

Can we join forces and fund the research quickly enough to save them? I hope so. I know this is an effort that would change each of our lives for the better, and because of that, I have no doubt I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.

Click here to learn more & support the Pink Eraser Project.

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