Keep fighting for a cure

by Courtney Johnson

The lights of the Capella Tower in the Minneapolis skyline are one of many items turned pink throughout the month of October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Businesses around campus have also heightened efforts to reach out to students to pledge their support to finding a cure to the disease. Nevertheless, the current attentiveness to breast cancer will be merely an afterthought after October ends and the start of the holiday season sets in.

Despite the end of the month that has been dedicated to the fight against breast cancer, that does not mean that all can âÄî or should be âÄî forgotten. The National Cancer Institute estimates that over 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer throughout the course of 2011.  This includes not only mothers, aunts and grandmothers but also a small percentage of women in their 20s.  The point is that even though we make more of an effort to honor and recognize the advances in breast cancer research this month, the message gets lost in the other 11 months out of the year. The battle for the hundreds of thousands of women diagnosed persists year-round.  And as members of a community, we should increase our knowledge of the disease itself and how it affects the lives of people all over the world as often as possible.

The University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center understands this uphill battle. The Masonic Cancer Center has been devising strategies for reducing the number of cases of cancer since 1991. The Center has made huge advances in understanding breast cancer risk factors and medicines to create effective treatments. Beginning in March 2010, they have been pooling knowledge and resources with other cancer research centers around the country on a case study called the I-SPY 2 Trial.

This clinical trial allows doctors to eliminate ineffective treatments quickly by using genetic markers from individual patientsâÄô tumors and screening new treatments.  This innovative trial enables researchers to use early data from one set of patients to guide decisions about which treatments are the most successful and the most useful to future patients. Funding for this trial comes from a variety of sources including Johnson & Johnson and nonprofit cancer organizations.

The Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation is a nonprofit organization that helps fund clinical trials similar to the I-SPY 2 Trial. Commonly associated with this renowned foundation are the pink ribbons that are decoratively and admirably hung on walls of coffee shops and the backpacks of students.

These pink ribbons act as a symbol of the battle that women will continue to fight valiantly. The revenue from these small purchases goes toward funding these clinical trials. Every small contribution from each individual ribbon accrues a much larger amount of funds for research. Donations to the Susan G. Koman for the Cure organization are directly responsible for enrolling more than 2,000 people into breast cancer clinical trials similar to the I-SPY 2 Trial.  Also, these ribbons and other forms of donations provide patients who wish to enroll in these trials with transportation, housing and insurance-based needs.

Supporting these efforts year-round is important for the campus community. We can achieve this by purchasing a ribbon to tie to our backpacks, or even small souvenirs such as bracelets or bumper stickers to help to support clinical trials similar to the I-SPY 2 trial. Making a larger effort here on campus year-round will keep awareness alive, and help women all over the world in the battle against breast cancer.


Courtney Johnson welcomes comments at [email protected]