Betty Vandeputte was sick in bed with COVID in August 2022, scrolling her Facebook feed when a post from Susan G. Komen made her pause. “It was a post about Pickleball for the Cure, and I thought it looked interesting. I called my friend and said, ‘I’m sick, but this is a great idea, and we should do it.’” With less than two months to coordinate and announce the event, they immediately got to work.
Patient advocates are helping researchers break new ground in breast cancer research today by providing patient perspectives and sharing personal experiences that will help advance science and save lives. Komen Scholar alum and Advocates in Science member Patty Spears is at the forefront of this exciting work that is rapidly changing the treatment landscape for patients with breast cancer.
In the ever-changing landscape of breast cancer research, Komen Scholar Sara Tolaney, M.D., M.P.H., is leading innovative clinical trials and studies that are bringing new treatment possibilities to patients. Her novel treatment approaches include the use of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), immunotherapies and CDK 4/6 inhibitors, and also tailoring therapy for patients with early-stage HER2-positive disease.
For Gaorav Gupta, M.D., Ph.D., a former Komen Career Catalyst Research (CCR) grantee, the true reward of being a breast cancer researcher does not come from a grant or a successful publication, but from knowing his work has led to an improvement in patients’ lives.
Komen Scholar alum Daniel F. Hayes, M.D., FACP, FASCO, is world-renowned for his groundbreaking discoveries in breast cancer research and his thought leadership in improving diagnostic testing. But at the heart of his work is the question, what is best for the patient?
Over the last three decades, Susan G. Komen Scholar Olufunmilayo Olopade, M.B.B.S., FAACR, FASCO, has been on the forefront of breast cancer research, seeking innovative ways to reduce disparities in treatment outcomes and expand clinical trials and new cancer treatments to include those in underresourced populations.
When Tiffany was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, her world was shattered. “Never delay an appointment if there’s a problem. It’s really a matter of life and death. Advocate for yourself. Black women especially need to push for earlier appointments, ask questions and hold medical professionals accountable for doing their jobs efficiently and promptly.”
Shannon is the third woman in her family to be diagnosed with breast cancer. “I remember hearing about methods where mountain climbers will look ahead to a specific spot on their trail and make a goal to just get to that next spot,” she said. “This is what I did during my treatment and continue to do. I envisioned the top of a mountain being the end of chemo, as that was one of my biggest mountains to climb.”
Far from her family in Brazil, Juliana was living in the U.S. with her infant son when she learned she had breast cancer. “The only thought that crossed my mind was I had to have this ‘thing’ out of my body as soon as possible,” she recalled. “I needed to see my son grow up.”
In March 2022, Stephanie Hargis felt a lump in her right breast. “I went to the doctor, but I really thought, along with the nurses and doctors, that it was just a swollen lymph node,” Stephanie said. Breast cancer didn’t cross her mind. “The lump was painful, but I don’t have a family history and I was only 25.”
Scientists and doctors from around the world recently gathered for the 2023 European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress, which took place Oct. 20-24 in Madrid, Spain. Here, researchers present their latest findings that have the potential to change the standard of care for patients here in the United States. This year’s meeting was full of exciting news for breast cancer.
Through her new Komen-funded study, Komen researcher Erika Crosby, Ph.D., is hoping to answer these questions, with a goal of improving treatment outcomes for obese women with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), especially Black women. Dr. Crosby, who is an assistant professor at Duke University and an immunologist, is dedicated to improving the effectiveness of immunotherapies and ensuring breast cancer research is representative and beneficial to all.