Guest Post from Komen Scientific Grants Manager Margaret Flowers, Ph.D.
Advancements in early detection allow doctors to detect tiny breast abnormalities before they become cancers. The question is then “to treat or not to treat.”
With advancements in breast imaging technology, very small lesions (tissue abnormalities) are detectable long before they become palpable masses (as detected by clinical breast exam or by a woman herself), and that’s good because a breast cancer that’s detected early usually has a much better prognosis. However, the increased sensitivity of modern imaging technologies creates new challenges as well. The ability to detect very small premalignant (non-invasive) lesions may expose some women to unnecessary biopsies, surgery, radiation, and/or drugs because not all early breast cancers present the same risk. Many will never progress to invasive cancer, but we don’t currently know enough about the biology of these early lesions to predict those that will and those that will not. (Read Komen’s chief scientific advisor, Dr. Eric Winer’s perspective on the issue of over treatment relating to mammography screening.)
There is a recognized need to better understand the biology of non-invasive breast cancers in order to reduce the burden of unnecessary interventions, while preventing invasive breast cancer in those women at greatest risk. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the most common form of non-invasive breast cancer, is considered a precursor to invasive breast cancer. Currently the recommendation is to treat all DCIS with surgery. Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), a less common form of non-invasive breast cancer, is typically considered to be an indicator of increased risk of invasive cancer but not a precursor lesion itself (though this more benign classification of LCIS has been debated for decades and remains unresolved). Women with LCIS are offered preventive therapies such as tamoxifen, which can significantly decrease their risk of future invasive breast cancer. However, these preventive therapies are not without serious side effects, limiting their use for many women.
In its 2011-2012 request for research proposals, Komen identified the need to better understand the biology of non-invasive breast cancers as one of its funding priorities. A diverse portfolio of applications from independent investigators across the US, Europe, Australia and Asia were submitted for consideration. Each application was reviewed by an expert panel of scientists and trained breast cancer advocates and scored on its scientific merit and potential for clinical impact. Following a fastidious, multi-step process, 5 high-impact proposals were selected for funding, totaling over four million dollars.
Collectively, these studies will investigate critical aspects of the biology of premalignant breast cancer. The central topics to be explored include 1) genetic alterations that can be used to predict which premalignant lesions are likely to progress to malignancy, 2) protein biomarkers found in premalignant lesions that will be informative not only about the risk, but also the molecular profile of subsequent invasive breast cancer and may be potential therapeutic targets, and 3) key pathways that are activated in early breast cancer that can be targeted with novel drugs to block progression of premalignant to invasive breast cancer.
I’m hugely excited about the projects Komen is funding in its prevention and early detection category this year. Results from these studies will significantly impact the way early breast disease is diagnosed and managed, and ultimately reduce incidence of invasive breast cancer and its associated mortality. As science manager of this review committee I had the unique privilege to read all of the candidate proposals. I was very impressed by the quality of the science and the ideas that were stimulated by Komen’s decision to select this critical area of research as a funding priority in 2012. It’s a powerful demonstration that Komen is clearly energizing the science that will end breast cancer forever.
Read more about Komen’s 2012 research grants here.
On Friday, over 17,000 participants gathered for the 2nd Ghana Race for the Cure. Vice President of Ghana John Dramani Mahama spoke at the event, pointing out that many women in Ghana wait too long to seek care when noticing a change in their breast. He also insisted that the tendencies to resort to herbal and spiritual treatment and to blame breast cancer and other diseases on the activities of witches and wizards have made the disease so devastating in Ghana. AllAfrica.com and PEACE FM Online discuss the Race and the breast cancer burden in Ghana.
Despite the rain in Detroit on Saturday (right before the walk started), thousands of breast cancer survivors and advocates were still excited to walk the Komen Detroit Race. Komen Detroit even had a great ceremony of Honor Guards for the Survivor parade. The Detroit Free Press reported that passion for the cause was in no short supply and participants seemed excited to join together in the fight against breast cancer. CW Detroit shares some photos from the event.
And last but not least, Komen Italia held a 3-day event starting on Friday in celebration of the 6th annual Bari Race for the Cure on Sunday. Friday and Saturday were dedicated to education and prevention while 12,000 participants and nearly 900 “Ladies in Pink” gathered at the Piazzale Prefettura on Sunday to walk 3.1 miles in the Komen Bari Race for the Cure. The most emotional moment of the event was when the participants launched pink balloons after the Race as a reminder of the many women who have lost their lives to breast cancer.
Many thanks to all who walked, ran, donated and volunteered at all of our Races last weekend. Our work isn’t possible without your support.
Up next weekend:
– the Komen South Central Wisconsin Race for the Cure in Madison, WI,
– the Komen Connecticut Race for the Cure in Hartford, CT,
– the Komen Puget Sound Race for the Cure in Seattle, WA and
– the Komen Deutschland Race for the Cure in Hamburg, Germany
You can find your local Komen Race for the Cure here.
Great news in the Lone Star State as breast cancer researchers will share $8.4 million in new research dollars from Komen to develop breakthrough drugs for common breast cancers, more effectively treat advanced forms of the disease, and improve breast cancer outcomes for Latinas!
And we are proud to say that with this year’s grants slate, our research investment in Texas now totals $85 million since we were founded in 1982!
The research grants augment more than $10 million in 2012 community health grants provided by Komen Affiliates in Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Waco, Plano, Tyler, Wichita Falls, Texarkana, El Paso, Amarillo and Lubbock. The community programs served hundreds of thousands of women, providing screenings, education, treatment assistance and financial and social support to Texans facing breast cancer.
As always, none of this research or progress of the past 30 years would be possible without the generosity of our partners and donors in communities, and we are so grateful for those who understand and support this vital work for all people facing breast cancer.
More detailed information on the Texas grants can be found within the full press release located here. For a complete list and description of our 2012 grants, including the new peer-reviewed Texas grants, is available here.*
All grants and awards are contingent upon receipt of a fully executed agreement.
*Web table only includes Komen peer-reviewed grants.
Komen Central New York saw more than 6,000 enthusiastic participants come out to support the cause. This year, Race day featured Pink Paddles where survivors could write their years of survivorship and display them proudly.
Komen Montana participants shared how for many, running or walking was a celebration of life. Participants enjoyed the beautiful state capitol grounds, and after the Race, all of the survivors in attendance gathered on the capitol steps for the survivor ceremony.
Sunday followed with the Komen Twin Tiers and Komen Southwest Michigan Races. The Komen Twin Tiers Race reported over 3,000 participants, trumping last year’s record participation of 2,800!
In Kalamazoo, MI, supporters at the Komen Southwest Michigan Race enjoyed the warm weather and shared their inspiration to participate in the event, emphasizing the importance of the local funds.
And last, but certainly not least, the 13th Komen Italia Race for the Cure in Rome was another huge success with over 50,000 participants! As a unique characteristic of this Race, Komen Italia hosted a “Health Village” where underserved women could receive free breast cancer screenings and sessions on breast health from volunteer medical professionals. Check out their video.
We’d like to give a big “thank you!” to all of our participants, volunteers, sponsors and supporters around the globe. Your passion and support help us get even closer to ending breast cancer forever.
We are excited to announce our 2012 research program that takes aim at early and late stage breast disease while seeking answers in early detection, cancer prevention, and socioeconomic issues that often make breast cancer outcomes worse in minority and medically under-served women!
In 2012, we are funding $58 million in new research, augmenting the $685 million that we have invested in breast cancer research since 1982. This makes us the largest non-profit funder of breast cancer research outside of the U.S. government. Our 2012 research program includes 154 grants to researchers in 22 states and 7 countries. We currently fund more than 500 active research grants around the world.
The 2012 grants cover the full “continuum of cancer care” including research into prevention, environmental issues, more sensitive screening, personalized treatments and factors that lead to worse breast cancer outcomes in minorities and special populations.
A special focus this year is on making sure that all women get the right treatments from the outset. This might mean no treatment, or very limited interventions, for lesions that might never develop into cancer. At the other end of the spectrum, we want new therapies that promise a full, high-quality life for women with advanced and metastatic disease.
A complete list of our new peer-reviewed grants is available on our website here. The portfolio includes $8 million in new Komen Promise Grants, to researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Washington University, who will be investigating why some women are more likely to have a late recurrence of their breast cancers, and to seek new methods to treat women whose cancers recur.
Our research program is funded by national fund-raising programs, partners, and by Susan G. Komen Affiliates who provide 25% of their locally raised funds to global research.
We’re grateful for our partners and donors who make this research possible, and who understand and support all of our programs.
You can learn more about the 2012 research grants program in the full press release located here.