Coffee with Komen – Red, White & Pink

By Beverly Kruse, Regional Director, Affiliate Network at Susan G. Komen

Komen has set an aggressive goal – a Bold Goal – to reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths by 50 percent in the U.S., by 2026. By now, you have likely heard.

We are focused on the number of deaths – the more than 40,000 women and men who currently die of breast cancer every year in America. That number has stayed constant for many years, despite increased education and early detection, and significant advances in breast cancer treatment.

In 2014, we said that we would move with more determination than ever to find cures for aggressive and metastatic breast cancers, and to improve outcomes for low-income and uninsured women, women of color, and other vulnerable populations that face barriers to breast cancer care.

Our Bold Goal brings a heightened focus and strategy to those objectives, initiating comprehensive approaches to reduce deaths from breast cancer by further leveraging our strengths in science and community health outreach/advocacy. The Bold Goal involves:

  • An enhanced focus on research that will advance treatments for aggressive and metastatic breast cancer; unlock the earliest possible detection of breast cancer to prevent its recurrence and/or spread, and leverage next-generation technology to detect – and treat – breast cancer at the very earliest stages.
  • Addressing racial and ethnic disparities, increasing access to and timely utilization of quality breast cancer care and improving breast cancer outcomes through patient navigation.

Let’s dive a little deeper into what we are doing in our work to support the first part of our goal – the enhanced focus on research to advance treatments for aggressive breast cancers and metastatic disease.

There are several subtypes of breast cancer that are very aggressive, such as triple negative breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer and Luminal-B breast cancer (a hormone positive form of breast cancer). These forms of breast cancer often are resistant to standard treatments, which means that the cancers are difficult to treat and can recur as stage IV metastatic disease, which is currently incurable. Our Bold Goal seeks better therapies for these breast cancers so they can be successfully treated without concern about recurrence or metastasis.

On May 19th, we launched the Request for Applications (RFA) for the first of our FY18 Research Programs grants. This funding opportunity was open to junior faculty (young investigators/scientists) working to address two of the greatest challenges we need to solve in order to save lives and achieve our Bold Goal. The RFA emphasized our desire to invest in projects that will develop new treatments for drug-resistant breast cancers and new approaches to combat metastatic breast cancer.

Our aim is to support outstanding research focused on those breast cancers that do not currently respond well to standard of care therapies including triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), ER+ breast cancer with acquired resistance, and metastatic breast cancer of all sub‐types.   We also hope to continue to support the training and career development of the next generation of leaders, through these Career Catalyst Research (CCR) grants.

From inception through today, Komen has already invested:

  • $85 M into new treatments for Triple Negative Breast Cancer
  • $8 M into new treatments for Inflammatory Breast Cancer
  • $17 M into new treatments for Luminal B breast cancer

Over the years, our research focus has evolved. In the beginning, we focused on understanding the basic biology of breast cancer. As we learn more about the factors that make cancer cells grow and spread, we are able to invest more in the translation of this knowledge into better approaches for early detection and diagnosis, understanding metastasis and recurrence, and developing novel therapies for all stages of breast cancer, with the goal of supporting work that has significant potential to lead to new treatments and technologies that will reduce the number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50 percent by 2026.

We started off 35 years ago knowing very little about the disease. Over time, we’ve increased our knowledge and developed new tools to treat breast cancer, with very positive results for millions of breast cancer survivors.

Today, we know that the majority of breast cancer deaths are from metastatic breast cancer and that these aggressive forms of breast cancer (identified above) are more likely to recur and spread, so we are focusing our efforts in these areas.

We know that the work that lies before us is significant, but our mission and our communities demand no less. If we are to achieve this BOLD goal, we know we must measure every effort and every action against these priority outcomes. We will not waiver, and we will maintain our focus.

Many of you have been there with us, each step of the way, investing in research and community programs that save lives. Thank you, for what we have been able to accomplish thus far, and I urge you to continue your investment in the purposeful work we have mapped out in our fight. Yes, the goal is aggressive, and with the investments together, so are we.

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