Emory Report
July 24, 2006
Volume 58, Number 35


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July 24 , 2006
Sindab project endowment gives gift of hope for cancer victims

BY Nicholyn Hutchinson

Jean Sindab was an African American scholar/activist who spent her life leading churches in work on environmental and racial justice. In 1995, at age 50, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and died 13 months later. Now Sindab’s memory is being honored at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute with a $2.2 million endowment to conduct research on aggressive breast cancer and poor survival rates in premenopausal black women.

The endowment used to create The Jean Sindab Project will support the work of a multidisciplinary research team led by medical oncologists Ruth O’Regan, director of translational breast cancer research at Winship, and Otis Brawley, director of cancer control and population science at Winship and medical director of the Georgia Cancer Center of Excellence at Grady.

The endowment was established by an anonymous donor in honor of Sindab, who until her death served the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (NCC) as director for environmental and economic justice/hunger concerns. During her life she helped enlist thousands of local congregations across the United States in work against environmental abuses affecting human well-being, especially that of people of color and those in poor communities.

Vicki Riedel, senior director of development at Winship, notes that The Jean Sindab Project is an important step forward for Emory and for breast cancer research for many reasons. “Our gift agreement includes establishment of an advisory board comprised of Emory physicians, researchers and members of the Atlanta community as well as a commitment to raise an additional $3 million to support this research. It is a wonderful opportunity to blend outreach and education with scientific research that incorporates cutting-edge epidemiology, nanotechnology and genetics.”

“I am very excited about the Sindab Project,” said Brawley. “Emory is investing
in work that will help us understand the environmental and biological reasons for disparities in breast cancer incidence and mortality. The impact of this research will extend to future generations of women throughout the United States and around the world.”

One example of work supported by the endowment is a project spearheaded by O’Regan on implementation of quantum dot-based nanotechnology in partnership with Shuming Nie, associate director of nanotechnology and bioengineering at Emory and Georgia Tech. Quantum dots are tiny semiconductor particles that have unique electronic and light emitting properties. Their extremely small size and highly compact structure enable them to be used as biological markers targeted to specific proteins and cells. Nanotechnology is an important advance in the early detection of breast and other cancers and in the development of targeted drugs for personalized treatments.

In addition, The Sindab Project is helping to fund research into “triple negative” breast cancers, which have been found to be more prevalent among young black women than their white counterparts. (Emory Report, May 8, 2006). Mary Jo Lund, assistant professor in the Rollins School of Public Health, is leading the research into triple negative cancers and is a member of the Sindab Project team.

Danielle Beverly, a community member of the Sindab Project advisory board and an African American breast cancer survivor, observed that the work combines two powerful components—hope and expertise. “At Emory the best people in the field of breast cancer are working hard to answer important questions that will save more lives,” said Beverly. “My treatment experience here demonstrated that collaboration, commitment and compassion are defining characteristics of their work. They are not followers of change at Emory but leaders of it. It is an honor for me to be a part of this project.”