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Meet Frédéric Van der Schueren, Member of the BIG Committee of Ambassadors

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Could you please tell us about yourself?

I’m a Belgian, and a father of 2 daughters. I graduated as a civil engineer, later as a master in finance & tax management, and I am also a certified internal auditor. I started my career 20 years ago in the banking business where I worked as a trader and then as an audit manager. Today I am the director of a financial department in charge of the liquidity & capital management of a major European bank.

My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, when she was pregnant.

The very difficult question was then a choice between terminating the pregnancy and beginning the chemotherapy immediately, or awaiting the birth of our daughter to start the treatment. Beginning chemotherapy during pregnancy was not a realistic and sound option at that time.

She decided however not to terminate, and to postpone her treatment for a few months till the birth of Manon, today aged 13. I fully supported her decision.

We thought that everything was fine after the first treatment. Unfortunately, 2 years later, breast cancer struck again and a few months later, Veronica died. She was 36.

What motivated you to become a BIG Ambassador?

The main purpose is of course to help win the fight against cancer as much as possible. I met Dr. Martine Piccart 15 years ago. Her selfless dedication and commitment in her battle against cancer has always impressed me. The friendship I had the chance to develop with Martine led me naturally towards BIG.

I first helped in preparing the “tax-friendly” side of BIG, allowing BIG to receive funds directly or indirectly in a tax-friendly way from donors around the world. One of our first steps was to launch the “Friends of BIG” fund (through the King Baudouin Foundation), together with Dr. Angelo Di Leo.

What do you hope the Ambassadors can accomplish?

Of course, we will help vitalize donor networks and charity events. Beyond this, being mainly outside the professional medical world, we can share our experience (in communications, finance, marketing, etc.) and give our advice, when needed, from another (non-medical) point of view. This is always an added value process.

How do you think that others can help?

Donations are of course necessary for BIG if it wants to increase its independence and launch fully academic projects. In addition to donations, BIG needs people to open their networks and to explain to others what BIG really is, and what makes BIG unique and innovative. We should also involve young people, active on social networks, to spread the word about BIG.

What do you think makes BIG unique?

It is clear that the very concept of BIG makes it unique: generating breast cancer research through collaboration at a worldwide level. Being active in over 50 countries through so many research groups is a true asset. If we can agree that partnership and “sharing” is the real key to success in fighting cancer, we should capitalize on this simple concept and communicate it globally.

BIG just celebrated its 15 year anniversary. What do you hope to see in the next 15 years?

I hope that BIG will be much more known by the general public by then, with many thousands of supporters. By its very nature and unique concept, BIG really deserves it.

I also hope that cancer researchers and research directors all around the world would have the simple realization that when sharing their knowledge and supporting the BIG network they have much more to gain than they have to lose. BIG would then have grown to its full potential to win the fight against breast cancer.