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Breast Matters - Philanthropy

Breast Matters - Fall 2014
Issue No. 5

Philanthropy

Date: December 15, 2014


$2 Million Donation Is Latest in Jane Rice’s Show of Commitment to Breast Cancer Survivors

Jane Rice, wife of Utz Quality Foods CEO Michael Rice, can still recall the time, about 25 years ago, when she felt like she was in top-notch physical shape. The then 46-year-year-old vice president of Utz and mother of two grown children regularly participated in high-impact aerobics and carried out a busy schedule. It was then, in 1990, that Rice discovered an abnormal mass on her breast during a routine self-examination. She initially dismissed the mass as a pulled muscle. But a trip to the gynecologist, followed by a mammogram, led to a diagnosis of breast cancer.

Rice didn’t waste any time. “I asked to be referred to a leading hospital. I was able to get an appointment at Johns Hopkins very quickly,” she says.

Her diagnosis turned out to be more aggressive than originally expected. The suggested course of treatment was changed from a lumpectomy followed by radiation to a bilateral mastectomy and almost an entire year of chemotherapy. After recovering from what Rice describes as “total shock” at learning her cancer was much more invasive than originally thought, she decided to commit herself to a renewed focus.

“Instead of focusing on how much longer I had to live, I began to focus on this question: How can I make a difference for other women?” Rice recalls.

Since then, Rice has committed herself to answering that question in a myriad of ways. She has marched on Congress to demand additional funds for breast cancer research, formed support groups for breast cancer survivors, and created a major fundraiser to support survivors with daily living expenses.

Rice’s most recent and magnanimous show of commitment has come in the form of a generous donation to the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. She and her husband made a $1 million contribution, and an additional $1 million gift was made by Utz Quality Foods to fund the Cancer Center’s comprehensive program in breast cancer survivorship.

The gifts establish the Jane Rice Survivorship Program in Breast Care. The program will focus on coordinating long-term patient care for survivors, holistic needs and cutting-edge health information for survivors and providers, and global research opportunities related to survivorship.

“As researchers continue to make enormous advances in breast care treatment, an increasing number of patients, such as me, have become survivors and face an entirely new set of challenges that require the best in patient care, education, and research. My husband and I are happy to support a program that addresses each of these areas critical to improving survivors’ quality of life,” Rice says.

Rice hasn’t always been in a position to give so generously, but she’s always been inclined to give. “I grew up in a low socioeconomic bracket. But if I had a nickel, I’d go to the candy store and make sure I bought enough candy to share with my five siblings,” she says. “I was always taught to share. I’ve always had compassion for other people.”

 

Komen Maryland and Johns Hopkins

Sustaining a 20-Year Partnership

Throughout the ongoing 20-year partnership among 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 in our state, to 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, Prothro 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 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 to ensure 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 the 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, including psychosocial assessments, complimentary and alternative care such as acupuncture, and coordination of care and transition to survivorship care, and funded survivorship retreats for patients and caregivers. 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 10 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.

 

Rubenstein Gifts Lead to Test for Breast Cancer

When Mark Rubenstein’s wife received her breast cancer diagnosis in 1978, she was told she had about 90 days to live.  Mr. Rubenstein, a Johns Hopkins University graduate and a member of its board of trustees, consulted with former Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center director and breast cancer expert Martin Abeloff. Under his care, Barbara Rubenstein survived for 23 years before breast cancer claimed her life in 2001.  Mark Rubenstein credits the excellent care by Abeloff and his team of breast cancer scientists and clinicians for his wife’s lengthy survival. He is dedicated to advancing breast cancer research and ensuring this kind of care for all women.

Throughout her treatment, Barbara was a steadfast advocate for breast cancer research and its rapid translation to new treatments for patients.  She challenged clinicians and scientists to be unrelenting in their quest to understand breast cancer and to find better treatments. In her honor, Mark Rubenstein endowed the Barbara B. Rubenstein Professorship in Oncology, which is currently held by breast cancer scientist Saraswati Sukumar, Ph.D. He also established and provided funding for the Barbara B. Rubenstein Scholar Award. The current recipient is breast cancer researcher Mary Jo Fackler, Ph.D.  In addition, Mr. Rubenstein provides annual contributions to Sukumar’s breast cancer laboratory.

Rubenstein’s generous support has resulted in significant progress.  Among the advances is the QM-MSP test, a method of analyzing breast cancer genes that can detect cancer cells from a single drop of breast fluid.  The test simultaneously determines the percentage of a biological process known as methylation in each of several specific breast cancer-genes. Increased methylation is known to shut down key tumor suppressor genes.  This work has now led to the characterization of methylation alterations in breast cancer and the discovery of markers that have been used in a new blood test.  This test detects advanced breast cancer and could also be used to monitor the effectiveness of treatments. Sukumar, Fackler, and cancer scientists Antonio Wolff, Kala Visvanathan, Zhe Zhang, Leslie Cope, and Christopher Umbricht developed the test, called cMethDNA assay, to detect 10 genes altered in breast cancer.  Specifically, it finds increased methylation of any of these breast cancer-specific genes in circulating tumor DNA found in the blood.

In a recent study of 52 women, half with recurrent, late-stage breast cancer and half who did not have breast cancer, the test was 95 percent accurate in distinguishing the breast cancer patients from the healthy women.  The findings were tested against 60 blood samples from the general population.

Sukumar and team also examined the test’s ability to measure treatment response in an additional study of 58 blood samples.  The test successfully detected a decrease in DNA methylation in the blood from patients with stable disease or who had responded to treatment.  Conversely, it found no decreased methylation in patients whose breast cancers did not respond to treatment.  

“Our assay shows great potential for development as a clinical laboratory test for monitoring therapy and disease progression and recurrence,” says Sukumar. “If it’s determined early that a treatment is not working, clinicians can save time and switch to a different therapy.”  The team says the test may also detect recurrent lung and colorectal cancers.

 “I’m very excited about this test.  This is the kind of progress I had in mind when I began supporting Sara’s research. I hope it will soon be commercialized and available to improve the care of all women,” says Rubenstein.  His dedication to the Kimmel Cancer Center through his active involvement as a member of the Advisory Board and his ongoing commitment to advancing the breast cancer program are reflected in these breakthroughs.  

 

The Under Armour LiveWell Breast Cancer Program and Pavilion

The Kimmel Cancer Center received a $10 million gift from Under Armour, Inc., to fund breast cancer and breast health support programs and a women’s wellness center.

This is the largest-ever gift given by the Baltimore-based sports clothing company to any organization, and it is in keeping with its focus on physical fitness and healthy lifestyles.  The funding will also be used for construction and outfitting of space to house the program in the Kimmel Cancer Center’s newest addition to its facilities, the Skip Viragh Outpatient Building.

The Skip Viragh Building, slated to open in 2017 as the primary entry point for cancer care at the Kimmel Cancer Center, will house the Under Armour LiveWell Breast Cancer Program and Pavilion on the top floor of the 10-story structure, which will include amenities such as exercise equipment, a nutrition learning center, and breast cancer navigation and survivorship services to help guide women going through treatment and beyond. The program’s services will be offered to women worldwide through distance learning via the Internet and will include up-to-date information about breast cancer research and treatment, fitness, and breast cancer prevention.

“Because breast cancer affects so many of us, we are committed to helping women and their families stay informed, stay healthy and build strong futures,” says Kevin Plank, CEO and founder of Under Armour. “It’s exciting to work with experts at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center to do that.”

 “Patient-centered care is our top priority, and this generous donation from Under Armour gives us the opportunity to provide innovative services in new state-of-the-art space for thousands of women and their families,” says William G. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., Kimmel Cancer Center Director.

Plank, whose company and philanthropic foundation has contributed broadly to educational, sports, and medical institutions recognized the dedicated teams of Under Armour employees and its loyal customers who support the Power in Pink breast cancer awareness campaign for helping to make this gift possible.