In what is fast becoming an annual tradition, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden for the third year in a row served as the Honorary Chairs for the Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure® in Washington, D.C. And while they were unable to join us in person for the June 4 event, they once again graciously opened their home to more than 200 breast cancer survivors, supporters and community leaders for our annual Global Race Celebration at the Naval Observatory on June 10.
Our founder and CEO, Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, reminded everyone that in a town often divided by the political colors red and blue, we all boldly wear pink as a show of our united fight against breast cancer. And with events like last week’s Global Race, we are making a big impact in communities all across the world. Thanks to the generous support of our partners, supporters and the tens of thousands of Global Race participants from across the National Capital Area – and the world – who walked, ran and fundraised over the past year, we raised $5 million that will enable us to continue our work investing in local community breast health education, screening and treatment programs. It will also help us build on our work globally to share our knowledge and experience and to fund education and breast health services in regions where few exist.
Dr. Biden, a long-time advocate in the fight against breast cancer, was introduced at the celebration by TODAY Show co-host and breast cancer survivor Hoda Kotb. In her remarks, Dr. Biden noted that “some of us are in the midst of battling breast cancer, some have beaten it, and some have lost a loved one to this terrible disease, but all of us must be a part of the race to find a cure.”
Doing her own part to empower women in this fight, Dr. Biden founded The Biden Breast Health Initiative in Delaware nearly 20 years ago, which has now trained more than 10,000 high school girls about the importance of early detection, breast cancer prevention and good health.
“Many of you know that I became actively involved in the fight against breast cancer about 20 years ago after several of my friends were diagnosed with the disease. One of those friends lost her battle and I saw then just what a terrible adversary breast cancer could be,” said Dr. Biden. “My answer was to approach the problem as an educator.”
June 10, 2011 Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer News, Education, Komen Leadership News, Mission, Research
As a long-time breast cancer advocate, I’ve attended many scientific conferences, including several annual meetings of the American Society of Oncology (ASCO). The big breast cancer news coming out of ASCO this year was not about treating breast cancer but preventing it. But more about that later.
Oncology research meetings are known for their slides with lots of charts and graphs that have interesting names like forest plot, waterfall graph, Manhattan plot, Kaplan-Meier curve, and — new for me this year — volcano plot. The dots and curves represent people, yet you rarely see a picture of a real person with cancer. The researchers do, however, thank and recognize the contribution of their patients, the men and women who participate in clinical research studies.
Take, for example, the breast cancer prevention study. More than 4,500 women who did not have breast cancer but were identified as being at higher risk for the disease, agreed to participate in this news-making study. The results, presented on Sunday, showed the women who took exemestane (an anti-estrogen drug) for five years were much less likely to develop breast cancer than the women who did not receive the active drug.
In another important study, 500-plus women with metastatic triple negative breast cancer agreed to be randomized (assigned by chance) to receive chemotherapy or chemotherapy plus a new, targeted therapy called iniparib. In this case, the results were considered to be negative because the new drug did not appear to provide additional benefit. But negative results are not all negative because they advance research and our understanding of breast cancer.
Just two years ago, at this very meeting, iniparib made news based on the results of a Phase II trial. The earlier and much smaller trial showed very encouraging results for the women who received iniparib. Though the results from the more recent study are disappointing, they do illustrate the importance of large Phase III trials. It’s also important to note that this Phase III trial was completed very quickly in large part because so many women were willing to participate in the study.
It’s too soon to say whether exemestane will be adopted as a prevention drug or if iniparib will have a place in the treatment of breast cancer, but we all owe our gratitude to the women who participated in these two studies. It’s because of them and the many women before them who have enrolled in other breast cancer research studies that we have made progress against this disease.
There are still many unanswered questions about breast cancer, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure is directing significant dollars for research into the most challenging issues: treating triple negative breast cancer and metastatic disease and strategies for preventing breast cancer, to name a few. Some of this research has already led to new clinical trials that are currently enrolling participants, and I have no doubt we be hearing about the contributions of these women at future meetings.
Guest post from Shelley Fuld Nasso, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Director of Public and Medical Affairs
Right now, 30,000 people in the field of oncology have converged in Chicago for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. The theme for the meeting is Patients, Pathways, Progress. For advocates, it is an incredible opportunity to hear presentations of the latest cancer research and interact with researchers, including many who have been funded by Susan G. Komen for the Cure. It also means a LOT of walking between sessions, receptions, briefings, and meetings. Thank goodness for comfortable shoes.
I wanted to share some of my own highlights from the first two days of the meeting, starting with the sweeping and inspirational Presidential Address by Dr. George W. Sledge, Jr., ASCO President and member of Komen’s Scientific Advisory Board. Dr. Sledge talked about “stupid cancers,” which are easier to treat effectively, and “smart cancers,” which are much more difficult to treat, are more likely to be resistant to treatment, and have a higher chance of recurrence. Dr. Sledge also talked about the new genomic era of cancer research that will be required to target the biology of smart cancers, and he outlined systemic changes that will be needed to meet the challenges of the genomic era, including changes in the oncology workforce, clinical trials system, and regulatory framework.
In a tribute session to Dr. Sledge as he concludes his year as ASCO president, his colleagues toasted him and spoke of his dedication to his patients and to his mentees, whose careers in breast cancer research he has fostered and encouraged. A team of his patients and friends – aptly named Sisters Sledge – participate in the Komen Central Indiana Race for the Cure every year. Dr. Sledge is clearly a compassionate, caring physician, in addition to being a leader in breast cancer research and clinical practice.
I also had the honor of meeting Dr. Jane Cooke Wright, who was one of the seven oncologists who founded ASCO in 1964, and the only woman. She was a trailblazer in many ways as an African-American woman and a leading researcher, and she was a pioneer in developing chemotherapy treatments.
Here are some other highlights from the sessions and posters I visited.
Dr. Bryan Schneider of Indiana University Simon Cancer Center presented significant early results of his work funded by a Komen Promise Grant. Dr. Schneider and his team identified a genetic marker that predicts whether patients receiving the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel are more likely to experience neuropathy, or nerve damage. Neuropathy is a common side effect of chemotherapy and can limit patients’ ability to function and interrupt treatment. In the future, this discovery may help physicians counsel patients about the risks and benefits of the treatment.
Amy Bulman of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Office of Advocacy Relations presented to patient advocates about the Advocates in Research Working Group’s recommendations on how NCI can meaningfully engage advocates in the research conducted and funded by the NCI.
Dr. Albert Neugut of Columbia University received the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Improving Cancer Care Grant, funded by Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Dr. Neugut will conduct a randomized trial of women with breast cancer who are receiving adjuvant hormone therapy to see if text messages via cell phone improve adherence to the prescribed therapies. This study will also analyze the cost-effectiveness of efforts to improve adherence.
Dr. Ann Partridge, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a Komen Scholar, presented results of the ASCO Breast Cancer Registry Pilot, also funded by Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The pilot confirmed the feasibility of collecting data to support quality assessment in oncology practices. Additionally, the project used the data to create treatment summaries for patients, improving communication with patients about their care. A presentation later in the meeting by Dr. Victoria Blinder of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center will explore patient satisfaction with the treatment summaries.
Mary Lou Smith and Elda Railey, co-founders of Research Advocacy Network, presented their survey of patients with metastatic breast cancer and analysis of patient perspectives when making treatment decisions. The survey presented participants with two hypothetical treatment options, each with a specified likelihood of both benefit and side effects, and asked participants to select a treatment or choose not to treat. Respondents under age 50 were more likely to choose treatments than older counterparts, and women with young children (under age 12) were much more likely to try any treatment option, even with a high likelihood of side effects. Analysis like this is important to understand the factors women weigh in selecting treatments or deciding to stop treatment.
Dr. Anne Marie Murphy, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force, analyzed breast cancer quality metrics at facilities in Chicago and found that the majority of institutions were not able to show that they met benchmark quality measures. The Chicago Breast Cancer Quality Consortium, a project of the task force, was founded with a $1 million grant from Komen to address disparities in outcomes for African American women in Chicago, who were dying at a rate 62 percent higher than white counterparts with breast cancer. A subsequent grant from Komen is allowing the consortium to provide support and quality improvement interventions to institutions in Chicago.
In preparing to come to this meeting, I pored through the list of abstracts for presentations by Komen-funded researchers. There is simply not enough time to attend all the presentations with ties to Komen. So this is just a sample of some of the presentations and posters I attended in the first two days of the meeting.
Obviously it is a very busy meeting. So busy, in fact, that there’s not much time to enjoy the beauty and culture of Chicago. But I did have one cultural treat when my cabdriver, who is also a blues musician who plays at the famed Kingston Mines, played the harmonica for me (while driving, no less!).
Even after 22 years, the Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure® in Washington, D.C. still brings tears to our eyes. Close to 40,000 people – including 3,500 breast cancer survivors – flooded the National Mall to honor a loved one, celebrate survivorship and unite as one in the global fight against breast cancer.
Our founder and CEO, Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker charged up the crowd, noting that the sea of pink making their way up the National Mall was a bold statement by this community that we will not rest until our promise to end breast cancer forever is fulfilled. Special guests including Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein were on hand to help drive home the importance of this global fight and the impact the $5 million raised from this event will have , noting that just because our Race has been run, doesn’t mean our job is done. The Race kicked off with a sea survivors clad in their pink race shirts marching onto the mall to the sound of American Idol’s Tim Halperin singing his tribute to the cause – “We Fight Back!”
The Race to the finish was aptly won by native Kenyan and current D.C. resident Komen Wilson. The first female to cross the finish line was Michelle Miller from Maryland. The first survivor to finish was Katie Sutton from Missouri.
A big thank you to the entire Washington, D.C. community for hosting us yet again – see you next year!
Register for the 2012 Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure today!
Get your internet bookmark tool ready! We are excited to announce that Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s founder and CEO Nancy Brinker will be adding her voice to the roster of global thought leaders blogging regularly on The Huffington Post. It’s only fitting that the world’s most influential on-line community would host the leading authority on breast cancer and women’s health. Nancy will talk breast cancer, yes, but also global policy, the coming cancer crisis, and how we can turn awareness into action for every woman, everywhere. Be prepared to add your comments to Nancy’s on-line community by clicking here.