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.
May 26, 2011 Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer News, Education, Global, Komen Events, Komen News, Mission
What an amazing day we had yesterday! More than 11,000 Ghanaian runners and walkers took to the streets at the inaugural Susan G. Komen Ghana Race for the Cure in Kumasi yesterday to tell the country and the world that Ghana will not tolerate its women dying from breast cancer. Young, old, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, daughters and sons – they all came to walk and support a cause that has touched so many of their lives. Our partnership with Dr. Beatrice Wiafe-Addai and Breast Care International brought the Race to Ghana and there is no doubt that it is here to stay.
We were delighted that Ghana’s Vice President Dramani Mahama postponed a trip to participate at the Race and talk to the crowd about breast awareness and early detection. The most unforgettable moment of the morning came when the breast cancer survivors received a standing ovation from the crowd as they marched into Baba Yara stadium. The festivities continued from there, ending with performances from Ghanaian and Nigerian gospel music stars that had the crowd on their feet dancing and singing.
The Ghana Race has made its mark in West Africa and we are so honored to have been a part of this historic day!
May 25, 2011 Breast Cancer News, Education, Global, Komen Events, Komen Leadership News, Komen Programs, Mission
We’re in Africa, kicking off the first official Susan G. Komen Ghana Race for the Cure on Wednesday (May 25). Ghana is one of seven African countries where Komen partners to educate, screen and help reduce mortality rates from breast cancer (with $462,000 in grants to Ghana along). Our Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Katrina McGhee is a Ghana veteran and files this report:
It’s my fourth trip to Ghana and something is different. The people are still wonderful, the air is still hot and humid, and yes unfortunately the Mosquitos still serve on the welcoming committee. But this time I can feel the winds of change. It’s like a subtle breeze carried by the quiet resolve of women fueled by hope and determination.
Three years ago when I first came to Ghana with Dr. Riccardo Masetti to represent Komen I was so enthusiastic, so fired up to help save women from breast cancer. I fell in love with the people and the place. My naive exuberance quickly met with the harsh realities that this would be a journey not a sprint. Young women were dying at alarming rates. The lack of awareness, resources, and infrastructure coupled with the poverty and long held myths were quite frankly daunting. How could we even begin to make a difference?
The answer was through partnership and perseverance. Forming an Alliance with NGO throughout the country, we slowly established a network of friends that would help guide our work. They are my heroes. People like Dr. Wiafe who work tirelessly to raise awareness, dispel myths, remove stigmas, and inspire women to act. It is no easy task and in truth can be frustratingly slow.
But the boldness of three women on last evening renewed my hope that we can win this battle. They were all at work – a hotel clerk, a waitress, and a cook. Each one upon seeing Dr. Wiafe declared “I need you to examine my breasts before you leave.” Wow! Can you imagine? Just a few short years ago no one would have been talking about this in public. Not many would have cared.
So is the transformational nature of Komen’s work. Inspiring the world with a vision of what could be, helping to map out the journey, and providing the fuel to get there. Together, we are Susan G. Komen. We will end breast cancer. In Ghana and around the world.