Join Drew Baldridge in Supporting Breast Cancer Research!

db_neon_pink_tee_dreIn support of October’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, country music artist Drew Baldridge has teamed with Super 8 to launch Rebound From Cancer, a month-long fundraising campaign.

During the month of October, Drew is selling limited-edition t-shirts online and at his concerts with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting the T.J. Martell Foundation.

db_neon_pink_tee“This is something that’s dear to my heart,” says Drew to Nash Country Daily. “My grandma got diagnosed with cancer a year and a half ago, and as an artist, I’ve always wanted to use what I’m doing for something bigger than myself. I’ve always wanted to give back. Now I feel like I’m starting to get to that platform where I can help.”

To learn more about Drew and his new single, “Rebound,” check out this article in Nash Country Daily. And be sure to buy your tee shirts today!

 

Gillian’s Story of Survival

487635909.224532414I am blessed to be alive! In 2013, I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, which had metastasized to other organs and bones in my body.  As I was being treated for pain management at a hospital in Westchester, NY the doctors and oncologist that evaluated my case said my days were numbered and recommended that my next stop was Hospice Care and beginning Chemotherapy treatments immediately, which did not align with my belief system.

This is where God stepped in with my sister finding out about Dr. James F. Holland from a colleague.  My prayers were answered in my first phone conversation with Dr. James F. Holland. He said, “Gillian, I am looking for someone who wants to live,” and I said, “you are speaking to that person.” In that same conversation Dr. Holland had already evaluated my case with a recommendation that saved my life, and the protocol did not involve Chemotherapy or Radiation.

I am filled with a tremendous amount of gratitude to report it’s been over two years and I am alive to share my story.  This is due to Dr. Holland’s expertise and support not just in the protocol he recommended, but his integrity and sincerity in supporting how I approached my healing process for my mind, body and spirit.

I was blessed to have the same amazing Oncologist that touched the life of T.J. Martell, and 40 years later he touched my life by his commitment to innovative cancer research.   I thank God for the T.J. Martell Foundation’s unwavering commitment to raising funds for innovative research to find treatments and cures for Leukemia, Cancer and Aids.  More importantly this funding enables more “Oncology Trailblazers” like Dr. James F. Holland to SAVE LIVES.

 

 

 

T.J. Martell Foundation on Today!


On Friday we celebrated our third annual Women of Influence New York. To kick off this exciting day, our host Robin Quivers, a cancer survivor herself, sat down with the team at the Today Show to tell them all about the event, which raised vital funds for breast cancer and ovarian cancer research. Here is the clip. Enjoy!

 

Guest Blog Post: Important Advice if You’re Considering Mastectomy

Ingrid Meszoely, M.D. is Associate Professor of Surgical Oncology and Clinical Director, Vanderbilt Breast Center at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

Following the completion of several large studies in the late 1980s and early 1990s involving thousands of women, it was clearly determined that the number of years a woman lived following breast cancer surgery was exactly the same whether she underwent mastectomy (removing the whole breast) or lumpectomy (just removing the part  of the breast with the cancer). This was a big breakthrough for breast cancer treatment with the realization that more surgery doesn’t result in better outcomes.  Initially this resulted in a trend of women choosing lumpectomy over mastectomy in order to preserve their breasts.

However in recent years, as Dr. Kummerow and many other researchers have found, there is a nationwide trend in choosing mastectomy over lumpectomy despite there being no clear survival advantage.  In addition, many women choose to undergo mastectomy of the non -affected breast despite the fact that the risk of developing cancer in this breast is very low and that it does not have any effect on survival from their current breast cancer.

As a breast cancer surgeon, I see this same phenomenon in my own practice.  The choice of mastectomy on one or both sides is often driven by multiple factors including the fear of cancer coming back or a new cancer on the other side and the wish to do everything one can to prevent this.  This often provides some sense of control and peace of mind in the setting of an overwhelming diagnosis.

When a woman is diagnosed with early breast cancer and given the choice of mastectomy or lumpectomy because she is a candidate for either procedure, the options should be considered carefully.

It should be clearly recognized that mastectomy does not provide 100 percent protection from cancers coming back. Cancers often come back at other sites outside of the breast before they return in the area of the removed breast tissue.  Because mammograms or other imaging studies are not routinely used after mastectomy, the finding of recurrences along the chest depends on continued routine self -exam and clinical exam by their doctor when the tumor is large enough to feel as opposed to being detected on mammogram when it is very small.

Mastectomy is also associated with increased complications compared to lumpectomy and these are often related to the reconstruction, which can be discouraging.  It is even more devastating when there are complications related to the unaffected breast when women choose mastectomies on both sides.

Lymph node surgery often is performed in the setting of mastectomy.  If just a single lymph node is found to be involved with breast cancer, removal of additional lymph nodes is recommended which can result in added complications. However if a lumpectomy is chosen, generally 3 or more lymph nodes need to be involved with cancer before more lymph nodes are removed.

When a woman presents with newly diagnosed early breast cancer and is put in the position of making a decision between lumpectomy and mastectomy, a thoughtful discussion should be initiated with her treating physicians.  Ultimately, the decision is very personal and she should choose the procedure that suits her lifestyle and provides her with the greatest sense of wellbeing.

 

PALB2 Gene Mutation Affects Breast Cancer Risk

Having a family history of breast cancer nearly doubles a woman’s risk of developing the disease and genetic factors are known to play a major role in the origin of breast cancer.

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes were identified as major breast cancer susceptibility genes nearly 30 years ago and it is estimated that these gene mutations explain about 50 percent of familial breast cancer cases.  BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation tests have been widely used in high risk women (e.g., women with a strong family history of breast cancer) for risk assessment and management which may include prophylactic surgical and drug therapy intervention.

However, a significant fraction of familial breast cancer cases remain unexplained. A recent study identified the PALB2 gene as another major breast cancer predisposition gene. The PALB2 (Partner and localizer of BRCA2) gene produces a protein that is crucial for key BRCA2 functions. Mutation carriers of this gene were found to have a 35 percent risk of developing breast cancer by the age of 70, triple the risk seen in the general population.  For breast cancer diagnosed before age 40, having PALB2 mutations was related to an 8 to 9-fold increased risk.  It is estimated the PALB2 mutations explain about 2 to 3 percent of familial breast cancer risk. This study expanded our knowledge of genetic contributions to the familial profile of breast cancer.

Currently, the benefit and risk of deploying preemptive measures like surgery or drug therapy based on PALB2 mutation status is unknown. While the utility of applying PALB2 mutation information for risk management of high risk populations needs to be further investigated, individuals with known mutations of this gene are encouraged to seek genetic counseling because PALB2 mutations are also known to increase the risk of pancreatic cancer and may increase the risk of ovarian cancers. Mutations in PALB2 are very rare in the general population. Thus, screening for PALB2 in the general population appears to be unnecessary.

Xiao Ou Shu, M.D., Ph.D., MPH
Ingram Professor of Cancer Research
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Excerpt: Tackling a Racial Gap in Breast Cancer Survival

Every day in our work with cancer patients and research doctors, we are reminded of the importance of continuing to fund life-saving advancements and consistently renew our commitment to our foundation’s mission. A recent article in The New York Times states the eye-opening fact that black women are far more likely to die of breast cancer than white women, shining new light on the urgency of funding better treatments for every woman:

The cancer divide between black women and white women in the United States is as entrenched as it is startling. In the 1980s, breast cancer survival rates for the two were nearly identical. But since 1991, as improvements in screening and treatment came into use, the gap has widened, with no signs of abating. Although breast cancer is diagnosed in far more white women, black women are far more likely to die of the disease.

And Memphis is the deadliest major American city for African-American women with breast cancer. Black women with the disease here are more than twice as likely to die of it than white women.

“The big change in the 1990s was advances in care that were widely available in early detection and treatment,” said Steven Whitman, director of the Sinai Urban Health Institute in Chicago. “White women gained access to those advances, and black women didn’t.”

Over all, black women with a breast cancer diagnosis will die three years sooner than their white counterparts. While nearly 70 percent of white women live at least five years after diagnosis, only 56 percent of black women do. And some research suggests that institutions providing mammograms mainly to black patients miss as many as half of breast cancers compared with the expected detection rates at academic hospitals.

To read the full article, please click here.

Guest Blog Post: What Causes Breast Cancer?

Dr. James Holland is the Distinguished Professor of Neoplastic Diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and his leadership is instrumental in the development of the T.J. Martell Memorial Laboratories in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Although there has been wonderful progress in diagnosing breast cancer in the last 35 years using physical exam, sonography, mammography and magnetic resonance imaging, and in surgery, substituting lumpectomy for radical mastectomy, and sentinel node biopsy for wide dissection, and in radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy, so that the majority of women are now cured of this common disease,  little research has been done on finding one or more causes that makes this disease so common.

Recognized inherited genetic factors account for less than 10% of cases. The T.J. Martell Memorial Laboratories in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has a deep program exploring a viral cause for human breast cancer. Breast cancer in mice is known to be caused by a mammary tumor virus (MMTV).  We have found a virus 90 to 95% identical to MMTV which we have named HMTV, in 40% of the breast cancers in American women.  We can infect other cells with it, indicating HMTV is alive and active.  It is not in the normal tissues of the patient, thus excluding genetic inheritance, but rather is acquired after birth.  The distribution of the virus in breast cancers around the world (high in the USA, low in China for example) parallels the content of MMTV in the different species of mice which varies widely.

The work will continue until we provide rock solid proof that HMTV causes human breast cancer, which then opens up new means of prevention and therapy.  And none of this would have happened without Martell Foundation support.

Guest Blog Post: Mammography – A Limited Tool for Early Detection of Breast Cancer

Dr. Margaret Cuomo is the author of “A World Without Cancer: The Making of a New Cure and the Real Promise of Prevention.”

Margaret I. Cuomo, M.D. is a Board-certified radiologist; Board member, Lesscancer; Author, ‘A World Without Cancer;’ and T.J. Martell Foundation Women of Influence honoree. She wrote the following post on this week’s mammography report for HuffingtonPost.com, which we excerpt below:

Mammography has been the gold standard for early detection of breast cancer since the 1970s but has been surrounded by controversy more recently. In 2009, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended that routine screening mammography begin at age 50, and that screening should be optional for younger women. Mammograms performed every two years, rather than annually, was advised for women of average risk of breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology, and others opposed the USPTF recommendations and supported annual mammograms and also advised annual mammography for women younger than 50.

This week, a study in Cancer by Blake Cady, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and co-authors reported that annual mammography has a definite survival benefit for young and older women:

Regular screening increases the likelihood of detecting nonpalpable cancers (cancers that cannot be detected by physical examination), and annual screening further increases the likelihood relative to biennial screening.

These authors also analyzed breast cancer and non-breast cancer deaths by age and discovered that half of all breast cancer deaths occurred in women younger than age 50, and 69 percent before age 60.

What Dr. Cady and his colleagues are not examining is the effect on cancer risk due to the radiation exposure of annual mammograms beginning at a young age.

Other scientific studies have reported on the radiation risk from screening mammography in women younger than age 50, especially among women with a family history of breast cancer, or a genetic predisposition. [1] While these studies have admitted a risk of cancer due to annual mammograms, the public’s perception is that the risk is small compared with the benefit in saving women’s lives. [2] [3]

We can all agree that mammography is a limited screening tool at best. It is time to engage in an intensive, focused research effort to discover the specific biomarkers that will assess a women’s breast cancer risk and identify those patients most likely to benefit from a specific molecularly-targeted therapy. A non-invasive test that is sensitive and specific for the early detection of breast cancer is a goal worthy of our investment and dedication.

Mammography will remain a controversial issue because it is an imperfect tool involving ionizing radiation. Let’s move beyond this method that is decades old and move forward with an early detection method for breast cancer that will not increase a women’s cancer risk at all. The National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society and research institutions across the U.S. could join in a collaborative effort to achieve this goal so that our daughters and granddaughters will have a safer, more intelligent approach to breast cancer screening.

For the full article, please click here.

A World Without Cancer – Guest Post

Dr. Margaret Cuomo is the author of “A World Without Cancer: The Making of a New Cure and the Real Promise of Prevention;” she is a board-certified radiologist who served as an attending physician in diagnostic radiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. for many years. She was the keynote speaker at the T.J. Martell Foundation’s inaugural Women of Influence Awards at Riverpark in New York City.

We are honored to share her perspective here on Angelina Jolie’s courageous decision regarding the discovery of her BRCA1 genetic mutation and subsequent bilateral (aka “double”) mastectomy, as well as the implications for the cancer community.

Dr. Margaret Cuomo is the author of “A World Without Cancer: The Making of a New Cure and the Real Promise of Prevention.”

Angelina Jolie has my admiration for her courage in publicly describing her decision to undergo a bilateral (aka “double”) mastectomy. Her BRCA1 genetic mutation significantly increases her risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

According to Jolie’s New York Times op-ed piece, her doctors estimated that she has an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. Women who have inherited BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations account for 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers and 10 to 15 percent of ovarian cancers (for white women) in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Knowing that her own mother died at the age of 56 following her battle with cancer, Angelina Jolie, the mother of six children, decided to be pro-active, and decided to sharply reduce her risk of breast cancer by undergoing the mastectomy.

The question that I hope many women are asking is: “Is this the best that we can do in the 21st century?” After 41 years and more than 90 billion dollars spent since the War on Cancer was declared, we should expect more effective and less invasive solutions to reducing breast cancer, and all cancers.

Are the National Cancer Institute and the pharmaceutical industry committing enough of their intellectual and financial resources to the discovery of safe, new ways of detecting breast cancer and ovarian cancer in their earliest stages?  If a patient has a BRCA1 or BRACA2 mutation, are there techniques available to “turn-off” the faulty genes?

Is there a sense of urgency about finding new tests to detect breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and other cancers, that do not involve radiation – a known carcinogen?

The prevention of cancer should be our ultimate goal and it should have the full benefit of the National Cancer Institute’s and industry’s vast resources.

Our children are our future, and we should expect that their generation will prevent cancer without the traumatic solution that Angelina Jolie felt obliged to accept.