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.

Komen 2015 Research Grants Include $447,000 to Washington University School of Medicine

Infographic 9-18-15 FRelease

Today, Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research, announced new grants to 124 researchers in 25 states and eight countries internationally, with about half of the grants targeted to early-career researchers squeezed by stagnation in federal research dollars.

The grants include more than $447,000 in new funding for research at Washington University School of Medicine, bringing Komen’s total research investment in Missouri to $22,372,092 since 1982.

The 2015 research grants expand Komen’s ongoing commitment to funding early-career scientists, that is, recent graduates and those trying to establish independent research careers. This group has been especially hard hit by real-dollar declines of as much as 25 percent in federal research funding over the past decade.

“We committed two years ago to do all that we can to ensure that talented early-career investigators remain in the breast cancer research field, while continuing our support for established researchers,” said Komen President and CEO Judith A. Salerno, M.D., M.S. “We cannot afford to lose talented scientists to other fields for lack of funding.”

This year’s research slate brings Komen’s total research investment to more than $889 million since 1982, the largest of any nonprofit, and second only to the U.S. government.

Grants from Komen’s nearly $36 million research portfolio – including more than $17.6 million in grants awarded to early-career investigators – span the entire cancer continuum from prevention to treatments for aggressive and metastatic disease. These include:

  • 36 grants to improve understanding of metastatic breast cancer
  • 18 grants investigating how tumors develop drug resistance
  • 19 grants related to the study of triple negative breast cancer – one of the most aggressive forms of the disease
  • 15 grants working to identify and understand biological and socio-economic health inequities
  • 13 grants seeking to develop new and novel therapies

Komen’s Investments in Missouri

Komen’s research program is funded in part by contributions from Komen’s nationwide network of Affiliates, which direct 25 percent of locally raised funds to Komen’s national research program. The remaining 75 percent of net funds are invested into community outreach programs that serve local women and men facing breast cancer.

“We are so proud to have the support of this community as we help our friends, coworkers and neighbors who are facing breast cancer, and work for continued progress against breast cancer through research,” said Helen Chesnut, Komen St. Louis executive director.

In Missouri, more than $452,000 will be invested into breast cancer research efforts in the state.

These funds include more than $447,000 to Adetunji Toriola, M.D., Ph.D., of Washington University School of Medicine to investigate the relationship between mammographic density and the RANK pathway, which was recently demonstrated to play an important role in the growth of breast cell types that contribute to breast density in pre-clinical studies and therefore may impact breast cancer risk.

A full list of Komen’s 2015 research grants can be found here. (Grants are contingent upon signed and executed contracts with Komen.)

In addition to funding breast cancer research, Komen has invested more than $1.95 billion into community health outreach and global programs that serve hundreds of thousands of women and men annually through breast cancer health and support programs that screen, educate and provide financial, medical and psychosocial assistance.

For more information about Komen’s mission investment, please visit komen.org.

For more information about Komen St. Louis, please visit komenstlouis.org.

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.

Susan G. Komen® Advances Breast Cancer Vaccine Research in St. Louis

For years, the holy grail of breast cancer research has been a vaccine that prevents the disease. Considerable progress has been made, thanks in part to Susan G. Komen® and St. Louis scientists.

In 2011, Komen awarded a $6.5 million Promise Grant to Washington University School of Medicine researchers at the Siteman Cancer Center. They’re working on vaccines aimed at both preventing the disease and preventing recurrence after treatment.

Dr. Will Gillanders and the research team working on breast cancer vaccines (photo courtesy of Robert J. Boston/Washington University School of Medicine

Dr. Will Gillanders (top right) and the research team working on breast cancer vaccines (photo courtesy of Robert J. Boston/Washington University School of Medicine

The idea behind the vaccines is to equip a person’s immune system to fight off cancerous growth, says Promise Grant co-recipient William Gillanders, MD, vice chair for research at Washington University School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery.

“In the last decade we’ve made a huge amount of progress towards that goal,” he says. “We have a much better understanding of the immune system, how and why vaccines work and when it would be most appropriate to use them.”

Gillanders’ fellow Promise Grant recipients are Ted Hansen, PhD, a professor of pathology and immunology and of genetics, and Elaine Mardis, co-director of The Genome Institute and professor of genetics.

A prevention vaccine could be a decade or more away, Gillanders said. Meanwhile, a clinical trial has begun on a vaccine that would prevent recurrence in patients who have been treated.

The vaccine targets mammaglobin-A, a protein initially discovered at Washington University and found in 80 percent of breast tumors. Called a Phase I clinical trial, it is meant to determine if the treatment is safe; however, researchers are measuring patients’ immune response to the vaccine.

“None of the them have had significant toxicities to date,” Gillanders says. “We’ve been able to detect evidence of an immune response. We would like to move now to a Phase II clinical trial, where we can have a more rigorous evaluation of the biologic response.”

Many patients with breast cancer receive endocrine therapy before surgery, typically for about four months, to shrink tumors and to make surgery safer and more effective. Gillanders hopes that one day the anti-recurrence vaccine may be given at this time, as well.

Dr. William Gillanders, Komen Promise Grant recipient (photo courtesy of Robert J. Boston/Washington University School of Medicine)

Dr. William Gillanders, Komen Promise Grant recipient (photo courtesy of Robert J. Boston/Washington University School of Medicine)

Another vaccine in development involves genome sequencing. That is, decoding the DNA of patients and identifying the differences between normal cells and cancer cells. After sequencing the cells, researchers would design a personalized vaccine for each patient using her own immune system to destroy the cancer cells, either to treat an existing tumor or to prevent recurrence. The patient would receive the vaccination after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Eventually, a woman who is identified as being at high risk for developing breast cancer could be a potential vaccine candidate too. That could be 10 years away, but it’s what the team is striving for.

“We’re not quite there yet, but certainly cancer prevention is one of the long-term goals of developing a vaccine,” Gillanders says.

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.