Big or small, Race day is special for all. Whether you walk or run, or just come for some fun, we’ve got something for everyone this fall!
In addition to uniting supporters and survivors, the seven Races held on the second weekend of October each had something that helped make it a memorable day.
Mid-Missouri featured Chicago-based entertainers, Charizma, at their Race on Saturday, October 12. The venue change to Peace Park in downtown Columbia was welcomed by all – runners, walkers, volunteers, sponsors and local residents. And the 30-minute rain shower at 6 a.m. was barely noticed by participants who enjoyed the day with the very special entertainment.
Also on Saturday, racers at the 21st Annual Komen North Central Alabama Race for the Cure® had the opportunity to get “pinked” as they crossed the finish line at Birmingham’s downtown Linn Park. The race course divided into two lanes and volunteers held signs that let racers know which lanes allowed them to get doused with washable pink cornstarch as they crossed the finish line. Organizers of the event say that this new feature especially appeals to “kids and adults who are kids at heart.”
Getting “pinked” was also a new addition to the 17th annual Komen Race for the Cure in Wichita Falls. The “Tunnel of Pink” was an optional additional event at this year’s Race, advertised as a way for participants to “get their pink on.” Over 3,000 runners and walkers participated in the Race, making it the largest footrace in Wichita Falls.
When I first learned that I had breast cancer, it was 1987 and I was 39 years old. I was in good health, had never smoked and was a distance runner. I was not overweight, had nursed my three babies, had good eating habits, and had no history of breast cancer in my family. How was it that breast cancer decided to pick me out?
The protocol at that time was to remove the breast and check the lymph nodes. Our doctor said that if the lymph nodes were clear, then chemotherapy and/or radiation were not needed. My nodes were clear, so the mastectomy was my total treatment at that time. Life went on and the years rolled by, and I had almost stopped worrying that I would have a recurrence. Then, in 1996, nine years after the first bout, I had a chest wall recurrence.
By this time, treatment techniques had become more advanced, and in addition to having a portion of my rib and pectoral muscle removed, I had both radiation and chemotherapy. After that, I was put on tamoxifen. It was apparent that, thanks to advances in research and new drugs, were beginning to emerge.
By the time of my recurrence in 1996, I had become an avid golfer. I found out through Golf Digest Magazine that Susan G. Komen was going to start Rally for the Cure. My family and I had been running in the Race for the Cure in past years, and I knew just how instrumental Komen was in research and progress in the fight against breast cancer. I decided that I would organize a Rally at our golf club. It seemed to me that I now could fight back against this terrible disease in my own way.
Maria had been feeling pain in her chest for some time, and some of her family members had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Although she was facing a difficult financial situation, she knew she needed a mammogram, so she called the Susan G. Komen® Breast Care Helpline for help.
It’s hard enough for some individuals to ask others for support, but even harder to call and ask for financial help. But Maria took charge of her health, and bravely called the helpline to inquire about any free services that might be available.
She, along with hundreds of others who call the helpline, was found to live in a community without a Komen Affiliate or locally-funded grantee.
“We get really upset when we get a caller from an area where there is no local Komen Affiliate office, state funding has been depleted and there are no local resources available to provide to the caller,” said a helpline specialist.
The helpline searched through resource after resource and found nothing in Maria’s area to help. But they refused to accept that nothing could be done. Instead, the helpline specialist called the Tennessee Department of Health to inquire once more about any possible assistance, pleading Maria’s case.
Our corporate partners fund research, pay for screenings and community outreach, and help us educate and engage women and men worldwide. Each partner is critical to our mission. Join us in thanking just eight of them who make our lifesaving work possible worldwide.
American Airlines was one of Komen’s first corporate partners, having supported the Race for the Cure® as a national series sponsor since 1988. In 2007, AA dramatically increased their support, committing to fund a five-year, $7.5 million Promise Grant to MD Anderson Cancer Center focused on finding better treatment options, for inflammatory breast cancer.
Promise Grants are multi-million dollar, long-term, large-scale research grants. They bring together the best researchers, doctors, nurses, patient advocates and others – working as one team to solve an important issue in breast cancer.
Of all the forms of this disease, inflammatory breast cancer is probably the most insidious, which also makes it one of the most deadly. Because of this grant, researchers now have a better understanding of how inflammatory breast cancer develops. The MD Anderson team has identified prospective new targets for cancer drugs, and they’re using these findings to design clinical trials of potential treatments, along with better ways to diagnose this form of the disease.
Belk was the funding sponsor of Belk EDGE: A Susan G. Komen Grant for Early Detection and General Education from 2010-2013. This project was led by Dr. Neb Duric, Professor of Oncology at Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, Michigan. The focus of this research project was to optimize ultrasound tomography (UST) technology to find breast cancer earlier and more accurately, particularly in women with dense breasts. Dr. Duric and his team demonstrated that the technology was able to correctly identify cancer in 90 percent of all cases, regardless of breast density. The investigators have estimated that up to 30 percent of unnecessary biopsies could be avoided by using UST. Dr. Duric and his research partner, Dr. Peter Littrup, M.D., were able to commercialize this ultrasound screening device under the name SoftVue®. They are currently undergoing a clinical study at The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, as they continue to improve the imaging and accuracy of the device.
Belk has been a Komen partner since 2002 and has donated more than $3.98 million to help fund research as well as community health programs in local areas where their employees and customers live.
After being diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in 1998, I had the option of having either a lumpectomy, followed by radiation, or a mastectomy. My mother, who was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in 1974, was offered only a mastectomy. The reason I had options was because two landmark clinical trials confirmed that women who have breast-conserving surgery followed by radiation have the same survival rates as women who have a mastectomy.
These studies dramatically changed how breast cancer was treated. But they did even more: they validated clinical trials as the gold standard for comparing one medical treatment to another.
Since that time, doctors have relied on the findings from clinical trials to guide all aspects of breast cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment to survivorship. These include advances in chemotherapy and hormone therapy as well as targeted anti-HER2 therapy, starting with Herceptin® and, most recently Kadcyla® (TDM-1), which was recently approved for the treatment of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer after trials led by Komen Scholar Dr. Kimberly Blackwell showed that the drug slowed the disease progression with fewer side effects than standard therapies. Some of the latest trials are evaluating targeted therapies, anti-cancer vaccines, and “smart bombs,” such as Kadcyla®, which carry chemotherapy payloads directly to HER2-positive cells. Might one or more of these treatments prevent breast cancer from recurring, make metastatic breast cancer a chronic disease, or eradicate breast cancer all together? Clinical trials will give us the answers.
Advancing breast cancer care through clinical trials requires an ongoing partnership between patients and clinical investigators. Today, there are more than 500 breast cancer trials taking place throughout the U.S. In fact, in 2010-2011, Komen provided more than $54 million to 74 grants that supported 83 clinical trials in the U.S. and around the globe, helping us test new therapies, develop new early detection methods and improve health care access and quality of life for low-income individuals facing breast cancer.
Yet, a relatively small number of patients volunteer for studies slowing the pace at which effective new treatments reach the clinic. Through our collaboration with Komen, we are able to provide more information about clinical trials and encourage individuals to participate. Barriers to participation are often linked to misunderstandings about clinical trials that are commonly held among patients, so sharing accurate information about the importance of clinical trials is critical.
In our work at BreastCancerTrials.org, we have found five of the most common myths to be:
Myth: Clinical trials are only for people with metastatic breast cancer.
Fact: There are treatment trials for breast cancer patients at all stages of disease. Breast cancer trials also look at prevention, screening, and quality of life, including those for post-treatment survivors looking at long-term consequences of cancer and ways of preventing recurrences.
Myth: If I take part in a treatment trial, I might be given a placebo (sugar pill).
Fact: All patients who join cancer treatment trials receive at least the standard of care. Only in the rare instance that there is no standard of care would patients in a control group receive a placebo.
Myth: Any new breast cancer treatment can be studied in a clinical trial.
Fact: A new breast cancer treatment is tested in humans only after there is good scientific evidence from laboratory and animal studies that the treatments will be potentially safer or better than the current standard therapy.
Myth: Researchers do not treat clinical trial participants well.
Fact: Patients in clinical trials are cared for by a team of healthcare providers and are monitored closely during the course of the study. A survey conducted by the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups found that the vast majority of cancer survivors who had taken part in clinical trials were very satisfied with their experience.
Myth: If I choose to enter a breast cancer trial, I have to stay in the trial, no matter what.
Fact: You can change your mind and stop participating in the trial at any time, for any reason.
How can you learn about ways to participate in research? First, discuss the availability of trials with your doctor, and if your physician is not supportive, consider a second opinion. Second, be proactive by visiting online resources that can help you identify studies on your own. BreastCancerTrials.org in collaboration with Komen offers a custom matching service that can help you find trials personalized to your situation. Other sites include government registries such as ClinicalTrials.gov (run by the National Library of Medicine) and Cancer.gov (run by the National Cancer Institute).
Clinical trials may not be right for everyone. And there might not always be an appropriate trial The Importance of Clinical Trials in Breast Cancer Treatment available at the right time. But as a community of patients and survivors, we can play a significant role in advancing breast cancer care by simply considering trials as a routine option for care throughout our cancer journey, and encouraging others we meet to do so as well.
To read more about clinical trials and Komen’s role in funding trials, go to Komen.org and check out the following resources:
• Clinical trials section on komen.org
• Clinical Trials Facts for Life fact sheet
• Research Fast Facts sheet
• Komen Perspectives article: The Importance of Clinical Trials in Breast Cancer Treatment