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A Challenge to Accelerate the Pace of Discovery

Susan G. Komen is honored to work and be guided by some of the world’s leading minds in breast cancer research. Led by Drs. Jennifer Pietenpol of Vanderbilt and George Sledge of Stanford, who serve as our Chief Scientific Advisors, these Scientific Advisors and Komen Scholars come from across the spectrum of breast cancer research, each among the leading authorities in their field.

Komen convened these scholars on February 27, 2020, to discuss the biggest topics in breast cancer and help set the path for our future funding. 

To help kick off the day Paula Schneider, Komen’s President and CEO, urged our research advisors to push the envelope to accelerate the pace of discovery, noting that “the clock is ticking.”

Schneider came to Komen from the business world, having been inspired to make a difference after losing her mother to metastatic breast cancer and having undergone treatment herself for Triple Negative Breast Cancer. With a history of other cancers in her family and two daughters, she understands personally the real-life effects of breast cancer treatment and the urgency to discover better, more effective treatments. Schneider told the group, “I am not a scientist nor a doctor. I am a businesswoman. I’m known for challenging the status quo. So, I’m going to challenge each of you to think differently. Let’s push ourselves to think how we can work together to accelerate progress, to improve patient care for those facing the disease today, and to create a new reality for future generations.

Collaboration is at the heart of everything we do here at Susan G. Komen. We knew from the very beginning that if we were going to truly create a world without breast cancer, a world where no one dies from breast cancer, that we were not going to be able to do it alone. We were going to have to find, fund, support and collaborate with the brightest minds in medical research, help them to focus on breast cancer as a career path and empower them to think big! We were also going to have to partner with compassionate and committed physicians, care providers and advocates on the front lines to ensure that everyone gets the care they need. 

And for more than 35 years, we have been doing just that. Helping patients today, while keeping an eye on the future. A future with newer, more effective treatments with less toxic side effects. And a future where women and men can benefit from those discoveries without having to make a choice between their treatment or taking care of their family. 

Yet despite all our progress, we expect more than 42,000 women and men in the U.S. to die from breast cancer this year alone. That’s why in the fall of 2016, Komen set a Bold Goal to reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths by 50% in the U.S. by 2026. 

As you know, this is a call to action to all—a rallying cry to the breast cancer community to think big, get uncomfortable and take bold action. This has been our north star. It has helped us focus our work on the things that will save lives. We have aligned most of our work under two clear strategic imperatives – to find breakthroughs for the most aggressive and deadly breast cancers, and to ensure that all people receive the care they need. 

Schneider told the Komen Scholars that “We know that research cures cancer, nothing else does. We are as committed as ever to be investing in breakthrough research. But our research must be focused on those things that have the best chance of making the biggest difference for patients, especially on mortality. Saving lives and improving the patient experience. That’s it! 

“Use this time together to think creatively and collaboratively about how we can save lives. We are leaning in on innovation.  Our charge is to set a path forward for the next five years, a path that will take us to 2026. I want you to push the envelope and lean in with us, because doing what we have always done will likely lead us down a path that doesn’t end in achieving our Bold Goal.”