News from FAIB

Meet FAIB Members - Get to know the Breast International Group (BIG), and meet its CEO, Theodora Goulioti

The Breast International Group (BIG) is an international not-for-profit organisation for academic breast cancer research groups from around the world, based in Brussels, Belgium.

“Global collaboration is crucial to make significant advances in breast cancer research, reduce unnecessary duplication of effort, share data, contribute to the faster development of better treatments, and increase the likelihood of cures for patients.”

Therefore, BIG facilitates breast cancer research at international level, by stimulating cooperation between its members and other academic networks, and collaborating with, but working independently from, the pharmaceutical industry.
In 1999, BIG was founded by leading European opinion leaders with the aim to address fragmentation in European breast cancer research. Research groups from other parts of the world rapidly expressed interest in joining BIG and, two decades later, BIG represents a network of over 50 like-minded research groups from around the world. These entities are tied to several thousand specialised hospitals, research centres and world class breast cancer experts across approximately 70 countries on 6 continents. More than 30 clinical trials are run or are under development under the BIG umbrella at any one time. BIG also works closely with the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the NCI National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN), so that together they act as a strong integrating force in the breast cancer research arena.
BIG’s research is supported in part by its philanthropy unit, known as BIG against breast cancer. This denomination is used to interact with the general public and donors, and to raise funds for BIG’s purely academic breast cancer trials and research programs. BIG against breast cancer conducts vital fundraising to help finance academic clinical trials and research programs that have no commercial interest but are crucial for patients with breast cancer. The funds raised provide the means for BIG’s member groups (made up of breast cancer experts across the globe), and their affiliated hospitals, to finance their efforts and patients’ participation in one or more BIG studies. Between 2012 and 2020, 94.4 % all funds BIG received, including from BIG against breast cancer’s philanthropic activity, were spent directly on BIG’s research.

Theodora Goulioti joined BIG in 2013, as the Scientific/Medical Director and became the CEO in 2018. BIG’s vision to find a cure for breast cancer through global research and collaboration and independently from financial interests, was what motivated her to join BIG.

Through her work she has the opportunity to interact with the world’s largest network of experts in breast cancer, who share their expertise and ideas in order to deliver clinical research of the highest scientific standards and ethics.
Of equal importance to her is the fact that she has the opportunity to work with a highly motivated and skilled team at BIG Headquarters who, with their work, make it possible for BIG to fulfil its mission, to facilitate and accelerate breast cancer research. Their team is very international and with many complementary skills, we work all together, learning from and supporting each other, and, despite the high workload, finding occasions to also enjoy some relaxing and fun moments.
Last, but certainly not least, her work gives her the opportunity to meet and interact with people that generously support the work BIG is doing, because they believe in our vision and mission. It is really inspiring and motivating during the difficult times we live to meet genuinely altruistic people, who are willing to offer so much to a cause, without any personal gain.

BIG became a FAIB member in February 2012 because they felt that they could learn from FAIB and its members about changes in Belgian law as it affected associations and have a professional benchmark against which they could compare themselves and their development as an international association based in Belgium. What they like is precisely this, e.g., advice and workshops about what changes in Belgian legislation mean in practical terms, salary survey, etc. For them, FAIB provides its members with very timely updates on the legal framework for non-profit organisations operating under Belgian law.

“This is extremely useful, since there appears to be no other official mechanism through which we can be notified upfront about planned changes in the legislation. Without this we might be caught by surprise and not have sufficient time to think about how to best implement specific changes.” 

Moreover, they find the webinars offered by FAIB of excellent quality and providing very useful information on many different matters (HR, financial, legal and others) at an affordable price for the non-profit sector.

Finally, to finish on a more personal touch, Theodora particularly likes the way the historical centers in Belgian cities have been maintained over time. “It makes you feel that you are walking through history”. She finds it a great achievement for a country not to allow the modern buildings and architecture to eliminate the old ones, most of which are so beautiful!

Theodora Goulioti, CEO


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