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  • Pink Ribbon | Red Ribbon: International AIDS Conference

    Wow, what a month! Following up on my previous blog post from my trip to Africa, I was fortunate to be able to participate in this year’s International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C. With over 20,000 participants from all over the global health world, it was truly an amazing event and – historic – as this year marked the first time this biannual conference has been held in the United States since 1987!

    Representatives from the founding Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon (PRRR) organizations joined me for a satellite session entitled: Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Panel: Leveraging the HIV Platform for Women’s Cancers. PRRR aims to build on existing health platforms, and particularly the firm foundation laid by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to help address the growing  breast and cervical cancer burden in sub-Saharan Africa. I was joined on the panel by Ambassador Eric Goosby the current US Global AIDS Coordinator and  head of PEPFAR, Dr. Doyin Oluwole the Executive Director of PRRR, Dr. Peter Mwaba, Permanent Secretary of the Zambian  Ministry of Health,  Mr. Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS and Renuka Gadde,  VP for Global Health at BD. The panel, which was so ably moderated by Jim Glassman, Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute, provided PRRR founding partners an opportunity to engage with the HIV/AIDS community and to articulate the core vision of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon. My presentation was entitled, Building Capacity throughout the Continuum of Care: Leveraging HIV Platforms to Address Breast and Cervical Cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa.  It was great to see that the two mottos which continue to guide all Komen’s global engagements strongly resonated with the audience: ‘’Where a woman lives should not determine whether she lives and ‘Healthy women drive healthy economies’’.

    I started by emphasizing the alarming epidemiological trends: Today, breast cancer is no longer a disease of women in high-income, industrialized countries but an urgent global problem. It is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women worldwide, and while most new cases are diagnosed in developed countries, the numbers of breast cancer deaths each year are now equally split between developed and developing countries.* Recent estimates indicate that  every year, over 100,000 women die of breast and cervical cancer in sub-Saharan  Africa. But these are likely gross underestimates, as many countries in the region lack national cancer registries. More importantly, this growing burden in Africa is increasingly shifting to younger women of reproductive age.  And the health systems in many of these countries simply do not have the capacity to effectively cope with this coming epidemic. The stigma surrounding this disease, and inadequate infrastructure all exacerbate the barriers women face in accessing healthcare and make it more likely that even those few who do get screened will not get the life-savings services they need, as treatment options are very limited.

    I also stressed the unique opportunity we now have for addressing these two major killers of African women in an integrated and cost-effective way. There are so many lessons and best-practices from the global AIDS community that we can apply to our joint efforts on breast and cervical cancer.

    Education and awareness programs focused on reducing stigma, increasing early detection rates and creating a general awareness about the disease, as well as the treatment options that are available will be crucial to lowering mortality rates and down-staging the disease at diagnosis.

    To this end,  Komen’s global strategy is focused on four key aspects which we see as integral to ensuring a sustainable continuum of services: support for countries in developing robust, national breast and cervical cancer plans; providing targeted clinical training to address skill gaps among low and mid level providers and enhance the capacities of critical medical specialists radiologists, surgeons and oncologists; and finally, to help countries build up their cancer registries and health information management.

    Our brief presentations were followed by a lively Q& A session with questions ranging, from how PRRR aims to address the current challenges countries face with severe limitations in lab diagnostic capacities as well as critical clinical and pathogenesis questions around treatment of HIV+ women diagnosed with breast cancer.

    I came away from the panel thinking – we have so much to do and how exciting that we have such brilliant partners leading the way on the global front. Komen is committed to advancing a holistic approach to women’s health, and to do all we can to help African countries avert this looming ‘cancer tsunami’.

    *IPRI. 2012. World Breast Cancer Report, 2012, International Prevention Research Institute (IPRI).

  • Race for the Cure Recap – Brainerd Lakes and Aspen

    It’s been a few weeks, but we are excited to catch you up on the amazing Races in Brainerd Lakes (June 30) and Aspen (July 14).

    Nearly 2,000 people came together for the 2nd Annual Brainerd Lakes Race last month. The event raised just under $97,000 – an increase from last year! Attendees learned of the inspiring story of the 2012 Honorary Survivor Chair, Viola Fjellman – a 62 year breast cancer survivor.

    The 22nd Annual Aspen Race had nearly 1,000 participants, including some who came out for the newly-debuted 10K event. According to attendees, the survivor tent was “out of this world” and more than 200 volunteers made Race day a huge success!

    There may be fewer Race events this time of year, but Komen and Komen Affiliates are still in full swing! Stay tuned for more information about how Komen is making an impact around the globe, and don’t forget to register for your local Komen Race for the Cure!

  • Susan G. Komen and Mexican Embassy: National Partnership with Local Impact

    Guest post from Catherine Oliveros, MPH, DrPH, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Regional Director, International

    We were very pleased on Thursday to announce a major partnership with the Consulate General of Mexico aimed at Mexican women in the United States.  This exciting new partnership focuses on building the organizational capacity of local Mexican Consulate’s Ventanillas de Salud (Windows of Health) programs to address breast cancer needs in the community.

    Why is this model important for Komen?  Simply put, because the need is urgent.  Although Latinas are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer; they tend to be diagnosed at later stages of breast cancer – attributable in part to potential barriers to care and a lack of awareness about the disease.

    This one year pilot will set the stage for a national initiative promoting breast health awareness and action among Mexican women in the US.  We’re working to actively address the barriers to care unique to Hispanic and Latina populations, while building programs in collaboration with Mexican Consulate offices and Komen Affiliates.

    The 2012-2013 grantees for $50,000 include:

    • Little Rock – University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health
    • San Antonio – YWCA of San Antonio
    • San Diego – Project Concern International
    • DallasDFW Area Health Education Center

    The impact these projects can have in terms of raising awareness and providing support to Latina women is tremendous.  Komen is proud to be partnering with the Mexican Embassy on this initiative and we look forward to successful outcomes that will set the stage for national implementation and the integration into other Embassies throughout the US.

  • The European Association for Cancer Research (EACR)

    Komen Founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker addressed The European Association for Cancer Research over the weekend, telling the world’s most influential cancer researchers that collaboration and new ideas are essential to beginning to stem a growing global cancer pandemic.  Breast cancer is the most widely diagnosed cancer in women worldwide. The biggest impacts are already being felt in developing nations with the fewest resources: more than 60% of cancer deaths occur in the developing world, yet only 5% of world cancer resources are dedicated there.  Nancy cited Komen collaborations with governments, non-governmental organizations and “in-country” health advocates as a step toward addressing the issue, and encouraged more collaborations to address the pandemic.  Read the full press release and check out some pictures in the slideshow below!


  • Update: Pink Ribbon | Red Ribbon – Our Work in Africa

    Greetings from Lusaka, Zambia!

    One of the best parts of my job is witnessing firsthand the solid progress for women’s health that can occur when great minds and great resources work together.  I was delighted today to be in Lusaka, Zambia, to help dedicate a new African Center of Excellence for Women’s Cancer, made possible in part by the extraordinary work of our new Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon (PRRR) initiative.

    Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is a partnership with Komen, the George W. Bush Institute, UNAIDS, PEPFAR, Merck and Glaxo Smith Kline to greatly improve screening for cervical cancer and improve education and screening for breast cancer. You can read more about this partnership here.  Here’s why cancer screening and treatment is so important in developing nations.

    Cancer today kills more people worldwide than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined – more than 7 million people annually. The burden is harshest on low-resource and developing countries, where 60% of cancer deaths occur today.  The issues are economic: medical resources are very scarce and education and screening for diseases is sparse. They are also cultural: there are often stigmas associated with cancer, and women fear seeking help if they feel a lump.

    The result is that, far too often, women arrive for treatment with tumors breaking through their skins, dying in agony of cancers that could have been successfully treated at earlier stages.

    It’s a cruel irony that in some countries, enough progress has been made in maternal health, nutrition and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment that women are living long enough to develop cervical and breast cancer. In Zambia alone, breast and cervical cancer among women account for over 41% of cancer deaths in the country.  With most new cases of cancer arising in the developing world, we must take steps to stem this growing cancer tsunami.

    Komen has been active in developing nations for many years – helping to break down some of the myths around breast cancer and to provide resources to detect and treat it early, when most forms of breast cancer are most easily treated. We’ve provided more than $44 million to international researchers and community programs. We work in partnership with hundreds of breast cancer organizations on the ground on five continents.  Our view is that where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live.

    So we were very excited today to witness the 43rd President, George W. Bush, and Mrs. Bush officially dedicating the new African Center of Excellence for Women’s Cancers in Lusaka, whose purpose is to reduce deaths from women’s cancers in the African region by raising the standards of care through education, training and research, with a focus on primary and secondary prevention and treatment of early stage disease. This center will have distance learning and point- of-care capability to support the healthcare workforce, both in Zambia and across many African countries.

    Komen, too, has recently expanded our work to Zambia.  Through a Komen grant, the Center for Infectious Diseases Research is establishing the Cancer Prevention Alliance of Zambia.  This alliance convenes existing breast and cervical cancer advocacy organizations in Zambia to coordinate strategies and share best practices.

    Additionally, through our partnership with Merck, we will begin scaling up breast and cervical cancer education to increase knowledge and awareness, and reduce stigma throughout Zambia in coordination with local NGOs, the Zambian government, the U.S. government, and our PRRR partners.

    And today, we announced a commitment of $200,000 to develop and implement a provider breast cancer training curriculum that will address gaps in the breast cancer continuum of care.  In doing so, we will build on the expertise of in-country providers including nurses, general practitioners, radiologists, pathologists, oncologists and surgeons

    Our efforts and partnerships in more than 50 countries are aimed at fulfilling a lofty vision: a world where no woman or man has to worry about breast cancer ever again.  As I stood at the ceremony today – far, far from home – I was once again humbled to know that whatever our differences, our locations, our languages, so many of us are united in this most noble of human ventures: to end suffering from one of the world’s oldest and deadliest enemies.

    We can save so many women and men from this suffering, as we work furiously in the laboratories to find the cures.  It will take a global community to do it, and all of us at Komen are grateful for the partners, healthcare workers, scientists, partners and advocates who are helping to make a world without cancer a reality.