Komen Greater St. Louis Race for the Cure Helps Eliminate Financial Barriers, Fear for Breast Cancer Patients

No stranger to bad news, Kim Beard-Morris also knows a thing or two about surviving. The 53-year-old is finishing a second successful fight against breast cancer 11 years after the first. It’s a team effort, she said.

“This is very, very difficult and stressful,” Beard-Morris said about being diagnosed a second time. “But my breast-health navigators help me out. I don’t know what I’d do without them.”

Kim Beard-Morris

Kim Beard-Morris

She is one of 4,000 breast cancer patients helped every year by the Navigator Project at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. The program, funded in large part by Susan G. Komen Missouri, assists women from medically underserved areas who are undergoing diagnosis and treatment. Navigators coordinate services and provide referrals to community and social-service resources.

The navigators, including Nedra Bramlett-Stevenson of Barnes-Jewish Hospital, offer a sympathetic ear, too. She and Beard-Morris have forged a bond, and the two shared a hug before Beard-Morris’ recent doctor’s appointment

“When I first talked with her,” Bramlett-Stevenson said, “she was upset because she didn’t want to go through this again. She thought her world was going to end.”

Since 1999, the Komen Greater St. Louis Race for the Cure has raised more than $30 million for local breast cancer programs, including more than $7 million for the Navigator Project at Siteman. Registering for the Race is about more than raising breast cancer awareness or honoring a loved one. Contributions to the race, held this year on June 11, make a difference in the lives of thousands of St. Louis-area women.

Susan Kraenzle, RN, who manages supportive care at Siteman, said an application process determines which patients qualify for assistance through the Navigator Project. If screening results are abnormal or clinical follow-up is needed, the program ensures patients may access financial help needed to complete treatment.

“The Navigator Project is a perfect example of what Race for the Cure does for the larger community,” Kraenzle said. “With funding from the event, we’re working to eliminate not only financial barriers to treatment but also the confusion and fear that often come with a breast cancer diagnosis.”

Up to 75 percent of net money raised by the Komen Greater St. Louis Race for the Cure stays in the region to fund education, screening, treatment and support programs such as the Navigator Project.

When Beard-Morris shared her worry about being treated a second time for breast cancer, Bramlett-Stevenson discussed how therapies had improved considerably since 2005.

“I thank God they sent me to her, said Beard-Morris, who is cancer-free again.

 Learn more about Susan G. Komen Missouri at http://www.komenmissouri.org. Register for the 2016 Komen Greater St. Louis Race for the Cure at http://www.komenmissouri.org/STLRace.

Race for the Cure Participants Support Breast Cancer Research, Services and Education in St. Louis

Siteman Cancer Center is fighting breast cancer on multiple fronts, thanks in part to the $20 million in grants Susan G. Komen® has awarded to Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital researchers and clinicians since 2008.

This funding is aiding the search for improved drug therapies, increasing access to breast screenings and educating women in the St. Louis area about breast health.

Cynthia Ma, MD, PhD

Cynthia Ma, MD, PhD

The impact can’t be underestimated, said Cynthia Ma, MD, PhD. Last year, Komen awarded her a four-year, $1 million grant aimed at improving drug therapies for breast cancer patients by fine-tuning how investigational drugs are tested.

“With Komen’s help, we intend to learn how to better select patients for clinical trials, based on their tumor types, so we can determine which drugs work best for each person,” said Ma, an associate professor of medicine and a Siteman research member.

The grant also is funding a more personalized approach to treating women with triple-negative breast cancer, one of the most aggressive forms of the disease.

Ma shares the grant with Shunqiang Li, PhD, a Washington University research instructor and Siteman research associate member. Matthew Ellis, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and leader of Siteman’s Breast Cancer Research Program, is a collaborator. Their project builds on past Komen-funded research at Washington University School of Medicine.

Anyone can contribute to the 16th Annual Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, to be held June 14. Since 1999, local Race participants have raised tens of millions of dollars to fight breast cancer. What they might not know is how much their contributions have assisted screening, research and other efforts in St. Louis.

Of the net proceeds raised from the local Race, 75 percent stays in St. Louis to help organizations such as Siteman provide breast cancer screening, education and other breast health services. For example, with Komen funds, Siteman has provided free mammograms to more than 3,200 underserved, low-income women per year.

Barnes_mammography van image“Komen’s help is essential in Siteman’s outreach efforts, and without them we simply would not be able to provide screening to the underserved at the levels we do,” said Susan Kraenzle, RN, manager of the Joanne Knight Breast Health Center at Washington University Medical Center.

Research grants are another way Race for the Cure registration fees and donations are put to work. Money raised at the Komen St. Louis Race and at Komen Race events nationwide has sent millions of dollars in Komen grants to Washington University scientists at Siteman.

Other such Komen-funded recipients aim to:

  • Develop a personalized breast cancer vaccine aimed at preventing recurrence of the disease. The project involves decoding the DNA of patients and identifying the differences between normal cells and cancer cells, then designing a vaccine for each patient using her own immune system to destroy the cancer cells. For the project, William Gillanders, MD, professor of surgery, received a $6.5 million Komen grant and is working with Elaine Mardis, PhD, co-director of The Genome Institute and the Robert E. and Louise F. Dunn Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the School of Medicine, and Ted Hansen, PhD, professor of pathology and immunology and of genetics.
  • Better identify which women with estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer, the most common form of the disease, are at the highest risk of recurrence and to find more effective treatments for those individuals. Komen contributed a $4 million grant to the study by Ellis and co-recipients Mardis and Pascal Meier, PhD, of The Institute of Cancer Research in London.
  • Increase the number of area women who have been screened, and reduce the number who receive late-stage diagnoses. Services offered through the Breast Health Care for At-Risk Communities project include: education, outreach, diagnosis and referral to Siteman’s medical oncology navigator for support during treatment.

Race for the Cure participants in St. Louis and beyond make the grants possible.

“It moves me to see how our city turns out the way it does,” Kraenzle said. “I lost a sister to breast cancer, and I wish she were here to see this and know people are fighting for her and her kids.”


Meet Me in St. Louis, Meet Me at the Mission

As October and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month came to a close, Komen St. Louis hosted Komen President and CEO Dr. Judy Salerno on a two-day whirlwind tour. Our mission: to show Dr. Salerno first-hand the year-round impact of Susan G. Komen® and Komen St. Louis in our community.

Local Dollars Making a Local Impact

We introduced Judy to two of Komen St. Louis’ community partners, each helping women right now by providing safety-net services in underserved neighborhoods.

 Komen CEO Judy Salerno and Komen St. Louis Executive Director Helen Chesnut with the team at Betty Jean Kerr People's Health Centers

Komen CEO Judy Salerno and Komen St. Louis Executive Director Helen Chesnut with the team at Betty Jean Kerr People’s Health Centers

At Betty Jean Kerr People’s Health Centers, Komen St. Louis funding supports the People’s Sister Connection program. The program offers medically underserved and uninsured African-American women access to the quality breast health care they need, including breast health education, clinical breast exams and screening mammograms. The program staff told us about the four mammogram events they coordinated in the week leading up to our visit. They are on track to provide more than 800 mammograms to women who may not otherwise get them.

In another vulnerable area of our community, Family Care Health Centers primarily serves uninsured, low-income individuals. Komen St. Louis funding helps FCHC’s Breast Health Screening Access Project to connect women with breast health resources and patient navigation services. Mammography vans – provided through another Komen St. Louis community partner – are available for the center’s diverse population of African-American, Bosnian, Hispanic, Somali and Vietnamese women. The program staff showed us the system they’ve developed to ensure as many women as possible stay current with their breast health screenings.

A Local View on Nationally Funded Breast Cancer Research

Judy’s St. Louis tour continued with a visit with four Komen-funded scientists in their labs at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. Washington University is home to eight active Komen research grants totaling $15.1 million.

Komen Promise Grantee Dr. Matthew Ellis discusses his breast cancer research with Komen CEO Dr. Judy Salerno

Komen Promise Grantee Dr. Matthew Ellis discusses his research with Komen CEO Dr. Judy Salerno

Komen Scholar Dr. Matthew Ellis’ Komen Promise Grant is supporting a three-year research project to identify patients most at risk for late recurrence of ER+ breast cancer and to develop drugs that will prevent late recurrence.

Promise Grantee Dr. William Gillanders and his research team updated Judy on the Komen-funded, five-year project aiming to develop personalized breast cancer vaccines that harness patients’ immune systems to target unique tumor antigens.

Dr. Cynthia Ma’s Komen-funded research focuses on triple negative breast cancer. With impeccable timing, just as she was meeting with Judy, we received notification that Dr. Ma’s $1 million Komen grant was officially contracted.

Dr. Ron Bose, who has received two Komen national grants and is a Komen St. Louis Pink Tie Guy, talked with Judy about his research focused on the HER2 gene, which causes HER2-positive breast cancer. He uses cancer genome sequencing and studies of protein structure to understand how HER2 works.

With her medical background and community health experience, Judy was clearly in her element during the grantee site visits, lab tours and science-based discussions.

During her St. Louis visit, Judy also met Komen St. Louis volunteers, sponsors, and additional community partners. She shared the Komen story with a wider audience through a TV interview on KSDK NewsChannel 5 and an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In less than two days, Judy saw for herself the Komen mission at work and the work happening every day to save lives and end breast cancer.

Komen St. Louis Community Partner: Family Care Health Centers’ Breast Health Screening Access Project

Community Partner

At Family Care Health Centers, the Breast Health Screening Access Project works to ensure that all patients get the breast health care they need.

With the help of two mammography vans provided through Barnes-Jewish Hospital, women are educated on their own breast cancer risk and have the opportunity to get a mammogram. The vans make visits to both Family Care Health Center locations once a month.

The program also offers patient navigation services for patients ages 40-64. Although navigation is available to all patients who meet the age requirement, over half of the women who benefit from the navigation services are uninsured. The other half are mostly low income; about 25 percent of them are on Medicaid, and the other 25 percent have insurance.

This is the 5th year of Komen St. Louis funding for this program.

Chereese Agard, RN and Breast Health Navigator, explains the importance of these services, especially for those patients whose lack of insurance presents a barrier to treatment. “Our project connects women with resources,” she says. “It is a great help to those who don’t have access to them or don’t know where to go for treatment.”

For a recipient of patient navigation services, the first step is an appointment with a mammography van.

Once that first appointment is scheduled, the navigator also follows up and provides additional services if necessary.

“The navigator will schedule follow-up appointments or appointments with a breast surgeon if needed,” says Chereese.

Last year, the Breast Health Screening Access Project, through Komen St. Louis funding, was able to provide patient navigation services to more than 1,000 women, allowing them to access the treatment they needed.

In 2013, Komen St. Louis granted $2.2 million to 13 local breast health programs in our 17-county Missouri/Illinois service area, including Family Care Health Centers’ Breast Health Screening Access Project. These grants help fund breast health and breast cancer screening, education and patient navigation services for those in our community who otherwise may not have access due to low income, lack of insurance or other barriers.

Komen St. Louis’ Community Partner of the Year: Siteman Cancer Center’s Breast Health Care for At-Risk Communities Program

As Komen-funded scientists and researchers investigate breast cancer’s causes and search for cures, Komen St. Louis’ community partners also are at work every day in the fight against breast cancer. With Komen St. Louis funding, our community partners ensure that local women, men and families in need have access to high quality breast health screening, education and patient navigation. We value each of our community partners.

At our 4th Annual Power of a Promise event, we recognized one of our grantees with our 2013 Community Partner of the Year Award.

Komen St. Louis Board President Dede Hoffmann presents our 2013 Community Partner of the Year Award to Siteman's Breast Cancer for At-Risk Communities program team

Komen St. Louis Board President Dede Hoffmann presents our 2013 Community Partner of the Year Award to Siteman’s Breast Cancer for At-Risk Communities program team

The Breast Health Care for At-Risk Communities program has served thousands of underserved, low-income patients at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. The program provides services to a wide population, with approximately 80 to 85 percent of patients residing in the St. Louis urban area – where the occurrence of breast cancer is higher – plus patients residing in rural areas. The program is helping to save lives by reducing the incidence of late-stage breast cancer diagnosis through early detection. The program team provides screening mammograms, breast health education and navigation of patients through the health care system.

Congratulations to Siteman’s Breast Health Care for At-Risk Communities program, our 2013 Community Partner of the Year! Thank you for all you do every day for women and families in need.

What Komen St. Louis Means to Me

Guest Writer: Susan Kraenzle, Breast Health Center Manager at Barnes-Jewish Hospital

Every family has one…the “bossy” one. Ours was Joanie.

Of our eight sisters, she was the tomboy. She ran fast, jumped high and had a killer spike serve. She had a husband, three kids, eleven brothers and sisters and tons of friends. Joanie was 42 when she died from breast cancer. It’s been fifteen years. We miss her every day.

Joanie_SusanAs I said, she was bossy. That really is the only explanation for where my career has led me…she “put” me here somehow.

I became a nurse to take care of babies. Shortly after my sister died, our family moved to a rural location, and I accepted a position as manager of a new Women’s Health Center at the local hospital. We didn’t have much funding for the Resource Center I wanted to develop. After seeing the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, I made a call to our Komen Affiliate to request support for breast health materials. I had one week to submit a grant.

That’s when I learned the story of Suzy Komen and her sister. I read of Nancy Brinker’s Promise and got goose bumps. I knew how it felt to watch a sister die. I’m not sure how long I cried. Then I wiped my tears, blew my nose, and started writing. I am certain that Joanie smiled when my grant was funded.

That grant was my first experience with Komen St. Louis, and I have been involved with the “breast health world” ever since. In 2004, I became the manager of the Breast Health Center at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. At that time, our outreach program provided care to about 400 underserved women. In these past eight years, it has grown to be the largest program of its kind in Missouri. We care for thousands of women every year…women we reach because of the funding we receive from Komen.

I am honored every day of my life to care for women in the city that Joanie called home. Every June, at our Race, I find a quiet place to remember my sister and cry just a bit. Then, I get back to work. It’s what Joanie wants me to do. She was the bossy one.