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Promise and Progress - Sustaining a 20-Year Partnership

Promise & Progress - A Spectrum of Achievements

Sustaining a 20-Year Partnership

Date: January 15, 2015

Komen Maryland and Johns Hopkins


Komen
Komen Maryland CEO, Robin Prothro

Throughout the ongoing 20-year partnership between Susan G. Komen®, the Maryland Affiliate, and Johns Hopkins, tremendous strides have been made against breast cancer.  “We are so fortunate to have a Komen affiliate and partner in Baltimore.  It has touched everything we do in breast cancer,” says William Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.  “From investing in our young people and our most experienced scientists, to removing barriers to screening for the most vulnerable of our state, helping move new treatments to the clinic, and most recently providing funding for survivorship, Johns Hopkins and Susan G. Komen have focused on many breast cancer issues together.”

Through coordination with the Susan G. Komen National Research, Evaluation, and Scientific Programs, Komen Maryland has supported the work of breast cancer scientists and clinicians and played a major role in charting the course of progress against the disease. 

With an investment of nearly $1.4 million since the partnership began in 1994, and under the direction of CEO Robin Prothro, Komen Maryland has addressed and influenced many important issues related to breast cancer.  In 2001, as the founding director, Ms. Prothero grew the Maryland affiliate from a grassroots, all-volunteer organization to a recognized force in breast cancer advocacy and change. She and her team have navigated screening participation, recommendation and reimbursement controversies, and racial disparities and access to care barriers. They have influenced important issues such as the development of targeted therapies and the resulting long-term survivorship and evolution of breast cancer into a chronic disease.

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Ms. Prothro about these achievements.

Q. As you reflect on the accomplishments of the last 20 years, what comes to mind?

A. I feel like we have come full circle. Originally, as an advocacy organization, we worked to get the word out about breast cancer screening and early detection and ensuring that everyone has access to these services.  Then we moved to therapy, working for better accrual to clinical trials, which led to improved treatments.  The benefits of this work are now being realized in the form of survivorship.  Women are surviving breast cancer in record numbers because they are getting screened, and therapy has dramatically improved as a direct result of Susan G. Komen-supported research.

Q. As you noted, breast cancer survivorship has increased significantly.  Specifically, how has Komen Maryland helped influence this trend?

A. Early detection is key to surviving cancer. Komen Maryland local grants targeted minority communities, providing education about breast cancer prevention and detection, and facilitating mammography, treatment, and support. Susan G. Komen was a force in raising awareness about breast cancer, ensuring women access to screening, and tackling reimbursement issues to make breast cancer prevention and screening standard of care. 

Q. Komen Maryland has been a key supporter of clinical trials, funding more trials than any other Komen affiliate. What drove this focus and how has it made a difference?

A. With increased breast cancer screening participation and racial and ethnic disparities highlighted, Komen Maryland began a sustained effort of supporting patient accrual to clinical trials. This effort advanced care, and ensured that breast cancer patients had access to state-of-the-art therapies.  These trials played a key role in bringing about technical advances, such as lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy, as well as a new understanding about the unique biology of breast cancer—illuminating which treatments worked for which cancers and which ones did not. Breast cancer became the model for targeted therapies, and these advances are now being applied to other cancers.

Q. Cancer survivors are the most rapidly growing demographic, and many of them are breast cancer survivors. From 1994 to 2004, the number of women living with breast cancer increased by nearly 30 percent. What is Komen Maryland doing to support this growing segment of the population?

A. The impact of early detection and advances in treatment are now being realized in long-term survivorship. Breast cancer is being transformed into a survivable, chronic disease, and Komen Maryland is working to ensure that women live longer and live well. Survivorship has become a specialized area of medicine, and we are working with breast cancer and survivorship experts at the Kimmel Cancer Center to create the model for best practices and standard of care for breast cancer survivors. Grants to Johns Hopkins have advanced the study of survivorship, funded survivorship retreats for patients and caregivers, psychosocial assessments, complimentary and alternative care such as acupuncture, and coordination of care and transition to survivorship care.  Susan G. Komen has spent almost $90 million researching metastatic disease looking for better detection and treatment to minimize the effects this disease can have on one’s life.

Q. Any predictions for the next 20 years?

A. Innovations, discoveries, and technologies have catapulted expectations.  We are on the frontier of great advances, and we must maintain this pace and energy to overcome current hurdles in breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and care. Given the innovations and cancer gene discoveries of the last ten years, we expect that the next 20 years will see more and better targeted therapies, a greater ability to diagnose at earlier stages, and more sophisticated and applied personalized medicine to prevent cancer.  Over the next 20 years, we need to sustain our efforts to achieve our goal of eliminating breast cancer.

Komen Maryland Fast Facts:

> Susan G. Komen Maryland is a top-ranked affiliate in the world’s largest breast cancer charity.

> Komen Maryland has granted nearly $35 million in the last 22 years to local organizations for breast cancer screening, treatment, and survivorship.

> Since 1982, Susan G. Komen  has played a critical role in every major breast cancer advance.

> Locally raised money stays in Maryland with 75 percent of all donations supporting local programs and institutions, and the remaining funds supporting vital national research, much of which is taking place in Maryland medical institutions.
 

Komen Maryland By the Numbers

48,000 PEOPLE REACHED.

  • 21,000 people educated about breast cancer and breast health
  • 8,453 women received free clinical breast exams
  • 6,775 women received free mammograms
  • 5,822 people of underserved populations, including African American, Hispanic, Asian, and other ethnic women received free mammograms
  • 3,705 survivors and families received counseling and other support services
  • 2,108 people educated, screened, and enrolled in clinical trials
  • 256 women enrolled in clinical trials
  • 131 minority women enrolled in clinical trials
  • 61 breast cancers were diagnosed
  • 5 men received diagnostic and other support services

Reflections

Today at Johns Hopkins, we have a Breast Center and a formal breast cancer program.  We didn’t have this 20 years ago. Changes and advances driven by partners like Susan G. Komen have made it possible for us to expand and focus our efforts, facilitated collaborations across institutions and specialties, allowed us to train the next clinicians and investigators, driven quality and access to care for all women in Maryland and beyond, and provided research funding to solve the most complex problems. I believe we can eliminate deaths from breast cancer, but we won’t do it—we can’t do it—without  partnerships like these.

William Nelson, M.D., Ph.D.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Komen Maryland have been instrumental in funding not only innovative multi-center clinical studies that I lead, but also the training of the next generation of physicians through postdoctoral fellowships. More recently, Komen Maryland recognized that women with metastatic breast cancer have many unmet needs and is funding our new initiative designed to provide a comprehensive support for women with metastatic breast cancer. Komen Maryland‘s support of our programs over two decades has led to vast improvement in research, education, and in the care of individuals with breast cancer.

Vered Stearns, M.D.
Co-Director, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center Breast Cancer Program


Komen Maryland has been visionary in its support of activities that continue to receive limited or no funding from traditional funding sources, especially as research infrastructure support for NCI-funded clinical trials has steadily decreased in the last 15 years.  Komen Maryland was among the very few affiliates with an active funding mechanism to support people exclusively devoted to the laborious and time-consuming effort to educate and screen patients interested in participating in breast cancer clinical trials.  Many of these are now considered standard of care, in no small part due to Komen's investments.  Komen Maryland was also instrumental in providing the seed money that allowed the Johns Hopkins Breast Cancer Program to establish a multidisciplinary Survivorship Program that touches the lives of patients in Maryland and elsewhere, and has been recognized as a model in care, communication, and education.  None of this work could have happened without our partnership with Komen Maryland and its supporters.

Antonio C.Wolff, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.S.C.O.
Professor of Oncology and Breast Cancer Program Member

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