American Airlines Pledges Multi-Milion Breast Cancer Grant To M.D. Anderson
Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, American Airlines and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center are targeting one of the most aggressive and elusive forms of breast cancer in a unique multi-million dollar partnership announced today.
The three announced that American will raise $8 million over eight years, which will fund Komen for the Cure’s first Promise Grant – a $7.5 million grant to study and treat inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) at M. D. Anderson’s Morgan Welch Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Program and Clinic in Houston.
The announcement came as American and American Eagle unveiled new “Komen for the Cure” airplanes, decked out in Komen’s trademark pink ribbons from nose to tail. American, a long-time partner of Komen’s, also was named a Susan G. Komen for the Cure Lifetime Promise Partner at today’s ceremonies.
Breast Cancer research grant to fund unique team over the next five years
This American Airlines Susan G. Komen for the Cure Promise Grant will fund a unique team of patient advocates, breast medical oncologists, breast surgeons, imaging specialists, pathologists, radiation oncologists, physician scientists and basic scientists who will work together over the next five years. This Promise Grant team will focus on using the latest laboratory discoveries – in genomics, proteomics and nanotechnology – to rapidly find ways to diagnose IBC earlier, and to tailor treatments targeted specifically at this aggressive form of breast cancer.
IBC is a rare but aggressive form of breast cancer that tends to spread before women realize they have it. IBC is undetectable by mammography and ultrasound, and often resistant to existing breast cancer treatments. The Morgan Welch center is the world’s first research facility and clinic dedicated exclusively to understanding and treating IBC.
“Promise Grants are designed to bring the world’s best minds together, people who might not ordinarily collaborate, and to provide those experts with the resources to focus and solve one serious problem in breast cancer, and to get results to patients quickly,” said Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of Komen. “We are addressing the large gap in funding for this kind of research, and we are addressing it in a big way.”
“American was quick to recognize, with us, that substantial amounts of funding are needed now to research and halt inflammatory breast cancer. Through this first Promise Grant, American is making a critical investment in comprehensive treatment for this rare disease,” Moddelmog said.
Dedicating aircraft with Komen’s trademark pink ribbon
American today also dedicated two “Susan G. Komen for the Cure” airplanes – a Boeing 757 and Embraer 145 – with Komen’s trademark pink ribbon running as a decal from the nose to tail of the airplanes, applied by American Airlines and American Eagle employee-volunteers.
“These airplanes will be a visible reminder – virtually everywhere – of the work still left to do in the breast cancer fight,” said Daniel P. Garton, executive vice president of marketing for American Airlines. “The employees of American Airlines and American Eagle are very proud to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure.”
Komen recently established Promise Grants to focus on research that has the greatest potential to decrease the number of women threatened by breast cancer over the next decade. Promise Grants challenge researchers to collaborate in new ways, so that breast cancer diagnostic tools and treatments are developed and delivered more quickly. The Morgan Welch center’s proposal was selected after a rigorous review by a panel of reviewers who are among the most prominent in the cancer research field.
"While tremendous strides have been made in the overall treatment of breast cancer, until now, there's been very little research into this rare disease that behaves so differently than other breast cancers," said Gabriel Hortobagyi, M.D., professor and chair of M. D. Anderson's Department of Breast Medical Oncology. "The global cancer community will stand to benefit from our comprehensive research program and what we learn about this disease. The only way to achieve better outcomes for women with the disease is to have dedicated resources, such as the funds allocated by Komen and American Airlines for continued IBC research."
American, the world’s largest airline, has partnered with Komen since 1988 as a national sponsor of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® Series; the official airline for the Race for the Cure Series and Susan G. Komen for the Cure; and a member of the Komen Million Dollar Council Elite with more than $6 million raised and contributed overall, most recently more than $600,000 from American Airlines AAdvantage members through American’s Mother’s Day Miles for the Cure effort.
About inflammatory breast cancer and the Morgan Welch Research Program and Clinic
In 2006, M. D. Anderson unveiled the IBC clinic and research program; both are the first of their kind in the world dedicated to IBC. Just one year later, the clinic and research program were renamed for Morgan Welch, a young woman who died from IBC at the age of 24.
IBC is rare – representing just two to five percent of all breast cancers diagnosed. Unlike other breast cancers that present with a lump, IBC’s symptoms instead may include redness, swelling, or skin inflammations. Further complicating diagnosis, the disease often cannot be detected via a mammogram or ultrasound, like other breast cancers, and it is very aggressive.
These factors combined mean that women with IBC are more likely than other women to be initially misdiagnosed, with the ultimate diagnosis coming only after the breast cancer has spread to other areas of the body. Today, the five-year survival rate for IBC is very low compared to other forms of breast cancer (reported to be 40 percent).
Before the opening of the Morgan Welch clinic, M. D. Anderson treated approximately 20 newly diagnosed IBC patients annually – more than any other facility in the world. In contrast, in just the last year, the M. D. Anderson team has treated approximately 100 women newly diagnosed with IBC; many other women with recurrent IBC have come to the clinic seeking treatment.