Emory Report
November 16, 2009
Volume 62, Number 11


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November 16, 2009
Campaign Emory
Winship’s breast cancer efforts pay off

By Cindy Murphy-Tofig

The Emory Winship Cancer Institute has earned a Community-based Organization Recognition Award from the BET Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its focus on health programs and treatments for underserved women.

The award recognizes Emory Winship’s multi-tiered approach to addressing breast cancer in the African American community — research, clinical access and community outreach.

“This award will allow us to further educate women on the importance of having annual mammograms since all breast cancers, including triple-negative cancers, are curable if diagnosed early,” says Ruth O’Regan, associate professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory and the chief of hematology and medical oncology at the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Through The Jean Sindab Project at Emory Winship, researchers are focusing on the causes of, and treatments for, triple-negative breast cancer. This aggressive form of breast cancer strikes African American women nearly two times more often than it does Caucasian women. The project is named for environmental- and racial-justice activist Jean Sindab, who passed away in January 1996 after a year-long battle with breast cancer. The project was created in her memory in 2005 by an anonymous donor.

“Through leadership, breadth of its programs, and long-standing commitment, Emory Winship continues to have one of the largest impacts on underserved women in the Atlanta community,” says Linda Torrence, chair of Winship’s Sindab Advisory Board, who submitted Emory Winship as a nominee for the award.

Clinical services are available through the Avon Comprehensive Breast Center, located at the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady. There, underserved women who live in either Fulton or DeKalb counties can receive screenings, diagnosis, treatment and counseling, as well as other support services.

Since 2000, the Avon Foundation has awarded more than $11 million to Winship and Grady, most recently contributing $750,000 to continue community outreach, education, clinical access, and four research studies that directly affect care for underserved populations in Atlanta. The funds have been instrumental in supporting breast cancer research projects and improving outcomes for underserved women diagnosed with breast cancer in Atlanta.

“We recognize the tremendous support from the Avon Foundation that allows us to provide high quality clinical care for our patients and make the diagnosis of breast cancer earlier,” says Sheryl A. Gabram-Mendola, professor of surgical oncology at Emory and deputy director of the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady. “Our successes are directly aligned with the mission of the Avon Foundation — to improve the lives of women globally and for that we are extremely grateful.”

Community outreach efforts have brought the message of regular mammograms to churches, health clinics, community meetings, and other gatherings.

The outreach efforts are working: From 2005 to 2008, mammography services at the Avon Center at Grady increased from 11,000 to 16,000. In addition, diagnoses of stage IV breast cancer are decreasing, and nearly 100 percent of the women diagnosed with breast cancer are completing their treatments.

The award also honors the hard work and dedication of patient navigators — breast cancer survivors who, after training, help guide and support newly diagnosed breast cancer patients through the completion of treatment, says Kimberly R. Jacob Arriola, principal investigator for the Avon Foundation Community Education and Outreach Initiative.