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  • 2011 Brinker Awards for Scientific Distinction

    2011 Brinker Awards
    L to R: Dr. Carlos Arteaga of Vanderbilt University and Dr. Armando Giuliano of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

    We were delighted Thursday evening to honor two of the nation’s top breast cancer researchers with Susan G. Komen’s Brinker Awards for Scientific Distinction. It capped a big week of exciting breast cancer research news at the biggest breast cancer symposium of the year — the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

    This year’s Brinker Award winners are (from left), Dr. Carlos Arteaga of Vanderbilt University and Dr. Armando Giuliano of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Arteaga received the Brinker Award for Translational and Basic Science for identifying several key proteins that have led to many new targeted therapies for women with the disease. Giuliano was honored with the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research for his groundbreaking work that has led to less invasive surgical treatments for breast cancer. Each also delivered lectures about their work at the Symposium. More than 7,000 researchers, practitioners and advocates gathered in San Antonio for the 34th Symposium.

    In remarks to the awards audience, Komen President Liz Thompson highlighted the results of a Komen-funded Institute of Medicine study, also released at the conference, into environmental factors in breast cancer, and said Komen is challenging other breast cancer research funders to join Komen in further environmental research. The Institute of Medicine study identified several lifestyle factors with proven links to breast cancer — among them obesity, lack of exercise, smoking and excessive alcohol use — and recommended long-term studies to get more conclusive evidence on how chemicals and other substances contribute to breast cancer risk.

    Read more about Dr. Arteaga and Dr. Guiliano here  and about the Komen-funded Institute of Medicine study here.


  • World AIDS Day

    Today is World AIDS Day and Former President George W. Bush took the opportunity in Tanzania to discuss the work of the Pink Ribbon-Red Ribbon initiative for breast and cervical cancer in developing nations.  Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the State Department, UNAIDS and the George W. Bush Institute announced the Pink Ribbon-Red Ribbon initiative in September, with a goal of using existing platforms for AIDS screening to include cervical and breast cancer education and screening.

    For today’s activities in Tanzania, Komen executive vice president and Chief Marketing Officer Katrina McGhee joined a delegation touring the Tanzania Cancer Hospital and attended a satellite event that included President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Bono and other world health leaders and activists. Mr. Bush said that we cannot let a woman survive AIDS only to die of cancer and recognized Komen for our work as a partner.

  • Chicago Breast Cancer Quality Consortium

    Guest post from LaToya L. Stewart, MPH, Manager of Community Health Programs at Susan G. Komen for the Cure

    It was five years ago that a startling statistic was revealed – in Metropolitan Chicago, an African American woman’s chance of dying from breast cancer was 62 percent higher than her white counterpart.  It was then that hundreds of community leaders and activists devised a plan to tackle and eliminate this disheartening disparity.  With a $1 million grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure (and support that has since grown to $2.1 million), the Chicago Breast Cancer Quality Consortium was launched to address a critical factor to health care that has been overlooked for too long – QUALITY.  On Nov. 11, the umbrella organization of the consortium, the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force, convened for the fifth year to share their successes since embarking upon this mission.  Anne Marie Murphy, executive director of the Task Force shared, “Armed with a dedicated board and staff, innovative ideas and unparalleled enthusiasm from a diverse group of partners within and outside the health care arena, we have moved steadily toward our mission.”

    Each step taken has been WITH and FOR the community.  The Nov. 11 gathering was no different.  More than 150 nurses, navigators, physicians, community activists and community partners gathered at Advocate Christ Hospital to discuss their journey toward health equity.  Dr. Terry Mason, chief medical officer of the Cook County Health & Hospital Systems was the morning’s opening keynote speaker.  He challenged the audience to consider the role of historical social constructs in the creation of health disparities in our country.  With that framework, he offered a simple but tall order: develop strategies to eliminate disparities that not only address genetic factors but also include policies necessary to affect health outcomes in our country.

    Murphy reported findings from an evaluation of the quality of screening and treatment at 53 mammography clinics and hospitals representing 46 percent of hospitals providing mammography services in the area and 42 percent providing cancer treatment to at least five breast cancer patients per year.  While the majority of the participating hospitals were able to demonstrate that they are meeting treatment standards based on national guidelines, there are a few that aren’t able to demonstrate meeting the standards of care.  Those standards of care are to provide treatment quickly and provide the appropriate treatment protocol.

    The results for mammography were vastly different, with the majority of the participating hospitals and clinics saying they could not demonstrate that they are meeting the quality standards in mammography.  Only 30 percent of the hospitals could demonstrate that they were finding cancers when they are very small.  More than 60 percent couldn’t demonstrate that abnormal screenings were followed up with critical diagnostic imaging.  There are limitations to the data and more analysis is needed, but the numbers were sobering.

    After lunch, Julie Hamos, Director, Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, made a monumental announcement.  Beginning in January 2012, Medicaid reimbursement rates for screening will increase across the state of Illinois if providers participate in the quality improvement initiative.  Ms. Hamos told the group that this increased Medicaid reimbursement is an effort to get providers to focus on quality.  With 1,400 screening providers in the state, it is also a significant opportunity for growth and improvement in breast health care for Illinois.

    As the day ended, I sat in on a session called You Have Cancer, Please Hold.  This focused on key communication points with patients from screening to diagnosis, with real-world suggestions on how to improve communication with patients.

    What an amazing event!  I’ve had the privilege of serving as Komen’s program officer for this initiative since 2009.  This update was truly a reminder of the important work that is being done to save lives one clinic at a time…and now an entire state!

    Related articles:
    State Takes Major Steps Towards Improving Mammography Quality While Increasing Medicaid Mammography Reimbursement

  • On the Passing of Evelyn Lauder, founder of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation

    The entire Komen community mourns the passing of Evelyn H. Lauder, a tireless fellow torch-bearer and a true pioneer in the fight to end breast cancer. For so many years, Mrs. Lauder’s Breast Cancer Research Foundation has championed important and meaningful research in the battle against the disease. Her valiant and courageous crusade was the cause of her lifetime. Evelyn Lauder leaves an inimitable  legacy of hope and progress in this war that all of us will continue to fight so vigorously and with such determination.

  • Strategic Meeting for Breast Cancer Advocacy in the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil

    On October 18, 2011, Susan G. Komen for the Cure hosted a strategic meeting in the State of Sao Paulo that brought together community advocates to address prevailing breast cancer challenges in the region.

    The roundtable included experts, healthcare professionals, and NGO and government representatives from the state. This is the first of several meetings focused on identifying and reducing the challenges that result in the lack of proper access to prevention and treatment services for citizens at all levels of the healthcare system. Recently, Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s President announced a commitment of R$4.5 billion reais (roughly $2.8 billion dollars) to the improvement of the country’s health services. Interestingly, the commitment was not in support of all chronic diseases, but specifically towards the fight against cancer. Needless to say, the subject is very timely as cancer advocates throughout the country begin to mobilize and strategize.

    Many people don’t realize, but Brazil is an expansive country with communities and regions that vastly differ from its north to south tips. As Dr. Carlos Ruiz, President of the Brazilian Mastology Society aptly put it, “this is the Brazil of many Brazils”. In a country that faces on average 50,000 new cases of breast cancer each year, unfortunately in states like Sao Paulo women still struggle to get adequate preventive and treatment services. Most unfortunate is the fact that mortality rates continue to grow.

    While it may be easy to attribute some of these statistics to less than adequate healthcare services, the roundtable focused on what can be done now. Participants suggested that mammography in Brazil is available for the most part. However, much education and training is still very much needed to ensure the accuracy and reliability of exams. Additionally, the diagnosis and treatment cycle is often delayed creating a less than favorable situation for women in need of immediate care. Over the next few months, the Global Initiative Team will identify specific focus areas for action teams in the state of Sao Paulo. A follow-up meeting is expected to take place in early 2012.

    Since 2007, the Global Initiative for Breast Cancer Awareness has been active in Brazil providing grants to strengthen awareness programs at the community level. In addition to community grants, advocacy meetings such as this one have become more and more important in linking Komen to the country’s cancer network. Stay tuned.

    Read more about our work in South America here.