March 7, 2000 

Breast cancer research at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute and Grady Memorial Hospital will benefit from a $2.2 million gift from the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade. The gift was announced today (March 7) at a national news conference in New York City.

The Winship Cancer Institute was selected as one of five leading national cancer centers to receive funds from the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade. The gifts to the five cancer centers, plus grants to Cancer Care, Inc. (New York, NY), and the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund (Washington, D.C.), total nearly $14 million, considered the largest single corporate gift in history to the breast cancer cause.

The other cancer centers awarded Avon Crusade gifts include: the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center (New York); University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center (Birmingham, AL); Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University (Chicago); and, The Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UC Irvine Medical Center (Irvine, CA).

The funds for the Avon gift were raised in part by the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day, a series of 60-mile, three-day fundraising walks, each with some 2000 participants. This year Avon 3-Day walks will be held in seven cities across the country, with the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Atlanta taking place September 22-24. In addition, funds were raised through the sale of Avon Crusade Pink Ribbon fundraising products by Avon U.S. independent Sales Representatives.

At Emory in the Winship Cancer Institute, the Avon money will primarily fund breast cancer genomics research - the identification of genes that make breast cancer arise and spread - and much of the research will be conducted by Emory clinical and basic sciences research faculty at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. African American women in the US have a higher likelihood of dying from breast cancer once diagnosed than any other US ethnic or socioeconomic group, but their incidence of breast cancer is actually less than white women. Research has shown the reason for the higher death rate in African American women may be in part due to interactions with the environment, diet, and certain genes involved in the initiation of cancers. American Cancer Society statistics for 1999 show that at the same stage of diagnosis, breast cancers are more likely to lead to death in African American women than in any other U.S. ethnic group. Grady’s patient population is predominantly African American.

“The Avon gift is going to allow Emory to take the expertise of young scientists already doing breast cancer research and accelerate our ability to do high impact research towards earlier detection, prevention, and novel treatment in Grady’s underserved breast cancer population,” says Jonathan Simons, MD, director of the Winship Cancer Institute and principal investigator for the Avon grant. “In this way, we will be able to take the latest findings and apply them to a group of people who historically have been last to benefit from medical research advances.”

Winship Cancer Institute researchers will look into the genetics of the aggressive cancers that have been shown to be more prevalent in women of color. Using the new research tools of genomics, or the use of high-speed computers and reading how cancers develop from damage to the DNA of the breast cells, researchers hope to find clues on why African American women can have more clinically aggressive cancers.

A significant portion of the grant money will also be used to attract and fund career development of young women physician/scientists entering breast cancer research in the fields of surgical oncology, pathology, medical oncology, and molecular genetics as part of the Avon Scholars program created at Emory. Ruby Kochhar, MD, a medical oncologist with the Winship Cancer Institute who practices primarily at Grady, is the first Avon Scholar in breast cancer research named at Emory. Kochhar graduated from Maulana Azad Medical College at the University of Delhi, India. She received her residency training at the Medical Center of Delaware, Newark, Del., and Stony Brook Teaching Hospitals in Stony Brook, N.Y. Kochhar performed her fellowship training in hematology/oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where she was also a special project associate.

Dr. Thomas Lawley, dean of the School of Medicine, of which the Winship Cancer Institute is part, says “This is tremendously exciting for Emory for at least three reasons. First, the science is some of the most promising I’ve seen. Second, the decision by Dr. Simons and Avon to focus a large part of this generous grant at Grady Memorial Hospital begins yet another chapter in Emory’s partnership with Grady and our deep commitment to the hospital and the community it serves. Patients at Grady will be among the first to benefit from the breast cancer research funded by this generous gift. And third, this grant, arriving at Emory only weeks after Dr. Simons’ arrival as Director of Winship Cancer Institute, further confirms our belief that he is the right scientist and leader to help make Emory one of the nation’s top centers for cancer care, research, prevention and education.”

“This major gift to the breast cancer cause exemplifies Avon’s mission to be the company for women,” says Patricia Sterling, Senior Manager, Avon Breast Cancer Crusade. “We are proud to partner with Emory and the other beneficiaries to seek the possible causes, prevention, treatment and cure of breast cancer, and to reach out to women who might otherwise not receive proper medical care for this disease.”

The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade was launched in the U.S. in 1993 by Avon Products, Inc. to provide more women, particularly those who are medically underserved, with direct access to breast cancer education and early detection services, at little or no cost. Due to fundraising success, in 2000 the Avon Crusade has expanded its mission to include new funding for breast cancer research, support services and educational seminars, as well as increased funding for community-based, non-profit early detection programs.



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