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.
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 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.