Brinker Stresses Needs along ‘Continuum of Care’ during Speech at The European Association for Cancer Research Congress in Barcelona
BARCELONA, SPAIN – July 7, 2012 – The leader of the world’s largest breast cancer organization today urged global scientists, government leaders and health experts to find new ways to work together to end a growing global cancer pandemic.
“For us to defeat cancer, we must break down borders between nations. We must tear through our own professional silos. We must bridge the gap between research and treatment. We must work together, as one force, united for one cause – the complete eradication of cancer,” Nancy G. Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, told the 22nd Biennial Congress of the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR).
Brinker was named an honorary member of the prestigious global research group today, becoming the only leader of a breast cancer organization to serve in that role.
She told the international gathering that although researchers have made huge progress in the past 30 years in understanding and finding new treatments for breast cancer, the challenge now is to ensure that laboratory discoveries are translating into meaningful treatments and risk reduction strategies on a global scale through education, screening and treatment programs.
“At Susan G. Komen for the Cure, we believe the focus should be on the continuum of care — the chain of events that begin with education and screening, and carry a patient through diagnosis, treatment, follow-up and hopefully remission,” Brinker said. “Today, in too many instances, women are getting lost along this continuum for a variety of reasons — lack of awareness, lack of money, lack of child care/transportation, or lack of access to quality care.”
Addressing those issues will be critical to reducing deaths from the disease, Brinker said. “The sad fact is that people once died of cancer because of our lack of knowledge. People are now dying of cancer because of our lack of imagination.”
With cancer cases growing rapidly in low-resource and developing countries, Brinker said the need is urgent. Cancer today claims more than 7 million lives annually, more than tuberculosis, malaria and HIV combined. More than 60 percent of cancer deaths occur in the developing world, yet only 5 percent of world cancer resources are dedicated there.
“This lack of resources and lack of attention is going to cost millions of people their lives. It shouldn’t be this way. Where a person lives shouldn’t determine whether she lives. So we must ask ourselves what we can do to tackle this issue head on,” Brinker said.
Brinker cited Komen partnerships in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Europe as examples of collaboration that involve the entire health care community. In the U.S., Komen works with almost 2,000 community health providers to provide education, screening and treatment support nationwide. Globally, Komen has provided more than $740 million to breast cancer research over 30 years.
Komen’s research portfolio includes investments in vaccine research, biomarkers to identify cancer before symptoms form, preventive and environmental factors in breast cancer and new, personalized treatments for metastatic and aggressive forms of breast cancer. These include:
• More than $52 million over the past four years into research specifically for predictive biomarkers that could help scientists and doctors predict who will or will not respond to certain therapies — including grants that may help to develop a personalized breast cancer DNA vaccine;
• Grants to develop a blood or tissue test that, when combined with mammography, could detect aggressive forms of breast cancer very early; and
• Grants leading to more than 120 clinical trials since 2008, including new treatments for Inflammatory Breast Cancer and Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
In addition to advancements in research, significant achievements have been made in changing the culture surrounding breast cancer, both in the U.S. and globally.
“Thirty years ago, the words ‘breast cancer’ were spoken with a whisper. Women had no support networks. People thought it was contagious,” said Brinker. “Today, we see people all over the world marching proudly together and communicating an important message — that no one should face this disease alone.”
More than 1.7 million people participate in Komen Races for the Cure worldwide, including 117,000 people in global races held in Germany, Italy, Israel, Ghana, the Bahamas, Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Belgium.
“We’ve made remarkable advancements,” Brinker said, “but we must remain mindful that most of our work still lies in front of us.”