Meet Me in St. Louis
Guest post by Janet Vigen Levy, Director, Public Relations & Marketing, Susan G. Komen St Louis.
As National Breast Cancer Awareness Month came to a close, Komen St. Louis hosted Komen President and CEO Dr. Judy Salerno on a two-day whirlwind tour. Our mission: to show Dr. Salerno firsthand the year-round impact of Susan G. Komen® and Komen St. Louis in our community.
Local Dollars Making a Local Impact
Our destinations included two of Komen St. Louis’ community partners, each helping women right now by providing safety-net services in underserved neighborhoods.
The first stop was at the Betty Jean Kerr People’s Health Centers; Komen St. Louis funding supports the People’s Sister Connection program. The program offers medically underserved and uninsured African-American women access to the quality breast health care they need, including breast health education, clinical breast exams and screening mammograms. The program staff told our group about the four mammogram events they coordinated in the week leading up to our visit. They are on track to provide more than 800 mammograms to women who may not otherwise get them.
Next, we were on to another vulnerable area of our community to visit the Family Care Health Centers (FCHC). The program staff showed us the system they’ve developed to ensure as many women as possible stay current with their breast health screenings. Funding from Komen St. Louis helps FCHC’s Breast Health Screening Access Project, which connects primarily uninsured and low-income individuals with breast health resources and patient navigation services. Mammography vans – provided through another Komen St. Louis community partner – are also available to reach out to the center’s large and diverse population of African-American, Bosnian, Hispanic, Somali and Vietnamese women.
A Local View on Nationally Funded Breast Cancer Research
The next stop on the St. Louis tour enabled Judy to meet with four Komen-funded scientists in their labs at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. Washington University is home to eight active Komen research grants totaling $15.1 million.
Komen Scholar Dr. Matthew Ellis’ Komen Promise Grant is supporting a three-year research project to identify patients most at risk for late recurrence of ER+ breast cancer and to develop drugs that will prevent late recurrence.
Promise Grantee Dr. William Gillanders and his research team updated Judy on the Komen-funded, five-year project aiming to develop personalized breast cancer vaccines that harness patients’ immune systems to target unique tumor antigens.
Dr. Cynthia Ma’s Komen-funded research focuses on triple negative breast cancer. With impeccable timing, just as she was meeting with Judy, we received notification that Dr. Ma’s $1 million Komen grant was officially contracted.
Dr. Ron Bose, who has received two Komen national grants and is a Komen St. Louis Pink Tie Guy, talked with Judy about his research focused on the HER2 gene, which causes HER2-positive breast cancer. He uses cancer genome sequencing and studies of protein structure to understand how HER2 works.
With her medical background and community health experience, Judy was clearly in her element during the grantee site visits, lab tours and science-based discussions.
Judy also met Komen St. Louis volunteers, sponsors and additional community partners, then went on to share the Komen mission story with a wider audience through a TV interview and an article in St. Louis’ daily newspaper.
We were excited to be the first stop on her year-long tour of the Affiliate network. In less than two days, we were able to show an example of the work happening by Komen and our grantees every day to save lives and end breast cancer.
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.