Scientific Advisory Board Member Amelie Ramirez Presents Komen-Funded Research At International Conference
I recently had the privilege of attending and presenting my Susan G. Komen-funded research on boosting Latina breast cancer survivorship through Patient Navigation at the 5th International Cancer Control Congress (ICCC) on Nov. 3-6, 2013, in Lima, Peru.
As a member of Komen’s Scientific Advisory Board, I was excited to be among the more than 400 health researchers and community leaders from throughout the world came together for this important meeting. Dr. Simon Sutcliffe of Vancouver, Canada, president of the ICCC and chair of the international steering committee, cited five key drivers for the group:
• improving human development;
• mobilizing a societal response to reduce cancer and other non-communicable diseases;
• improving population health;
• improving cancer treatment, management and care; and
• ensuring effective transfer of knowledge into action at a population level.
Dr. Carissa Etienne of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) also brought up the need to target three challenges: how to apply our current knowledge to reduce cancer; how to reduce cancer disparities; and how to implement comprehensive health care coverage to improve health for all.
How do we answer this call?
At the global level, Komen has invested more than $800 million in research and currently funds more than 500 active research grants. Since Komen’s inception in 1982, $89 million has been dedicated to more than 250 research grants focusing on health disparities. Komen is the largest non-governmental funder of breast cancer research, and its efforts to invest in translation from the lab into treatment, early detection and prevention align well with the goals of the ICCC conference.
My own Komen-funded research is addressing the burden among Latino populations.
Given that breast cancer is the top cancer killer of U.S. Latinas, my team at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is testing ways to reduce the burden on this population. In one National Cancer Institute-funded study, researchers from our Redes En Acción project found that a culturally sensitive patient navigation program reduces time from cancer diagnosis to initial treatment and increases rates of treatment initiation within 30 and 60 days of diagnosis—resulting in lives saved.
In our Komen-funded “Staying Healthy” study, we’re testing how Latina breast cancer survivors in an enhanced patient navigation program go on to participate in screening and treatment plans, and how their quality of life is affected. Preliminary results show increased quality of life, indicating that the “Staying Healthy” program has the potential to be a global model of survivorship care.
At the conference, another research project that caught my attention was a study of women with metastatic breast cancer in three Latin American countries (Mexico, Brazil and Argentina) that showed two-thirds of women felt no one understood what they were going through, 41% said their support from family and friends diminished over time after the original diagnosis, and 74% would like professionals to have more consideration for their emotional needs. In addition, 76% stated they needed more information on the secondary effects and systems of this disease. This study was supported by Novartis oncology (www.comunidadConCancerDeSenoAvanzado.org).
I was refreshed to not only hear and learn from studies like this one, but also present my Komen-funded research. Having a role in conferences like this can grow relationships that have the potential to generate collaborations to eradicate breast cancer across the globe.
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.