Hutch News Stories

Avon 'kisses' the Hutch with $2.5 million donation

Largest-ever private gift to Center for breast-cancer research also will boost care, study participation of underserved women
walk participants posing
Celebrating at the conclusion of the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk are (from left) Susan Heaney, director of public relations for corporate programs, Avon Products, Inc.; Dr. Julie Gralow, associate professor at University of Washington Medical Center and co-investigator for the Avon gift; Dr. Peggy Porter, head of the Hutch Breast Cancer Program and principal investigator for the Avon gift; and Carolyn Aishton, vice president of corporate programs for Avon Products, Inc. PHOTO BY RALPH RADFORD, COURTESY OF AVON

The largest private gift to the Hutch for breast-cancer research and care arrived courtesy of 6,000 soles Sunday afternoon.

Braving three days of sweltering temperatures in the 80s and walking a total of 60 miles, some 3,000 participants in the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk ended their journey at Seattle's Memorial Stadium, where they and a cadre of Hutch volunteers first heard news of the $2.5 million gift from the Avon Products Foundation.

The walkers, who began their trek in Enumclaw and included a 12-member Hutch team, had just raised a total of $4.6 million for breast-cancer research, joining walkers ths year in eight other cities participating in similar fund-raising events sponsored by Avon, whose slogan is "Kiss Breast Cancer Goodbye."

Among those present for the announcement was Dr. Peggy Porter, head of the Hutch's Breast Cancer Program. She marveled at the implications of the donation.

'A real difference'

"It is a generous gift," Porter said. "It's big enough to allow us to go in new reseach directions and attract new scientists into the breast cancer field. Our focus will be to translate what we know from the laboratory to what's happening in the clinic. This gift will make a real difference to the breast cancer program, and we want it to make a real difference to women with breast cancer."

The gift establishes the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade Opportunity Fund, the first of its kind at the Hutch. The fund carries two purposes:

  • To support innovative pilot projects in all aspects of breast-cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment, as well as initiatives to develop new treatments for breast cancer based on immune response.
  • To establish - along with University of Washington Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center - an integrated program of direct clinical care and research designed to improve and sustain access to high-quality breast care for traditionally underserved women throughout King County, including those who are disadvantaged, elderly, minority and under- and uninsured.

Principal investigator

Porter, of the Hutch's Human Biology and Public Health Sciences divisions and a faculty member in the Department of Pathology at UWMC, will serve as principal investigator for the gift.

Co-investigator will be Dr. Julie Gralow, associate professor at UWMC, breast-oncology specialist at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and director of the UWMC women's Cancer Genetics and Risk Reduction Clinic.

At Harborview, Dr. Joann Elmore, head of general internal medicine, will lead the clinical care and research initiatives, along with Dr. Hannah Linden, oncologist in the breast clinic.

Porter noted that the Avon gift will bring basic and applied scientists from many institutions together to translate basic research discoveries into the clinic and boost the potential for meaningful advances in breast-cancer prevention and survival.

Details of the scope of work funded by the gift fall into these categories:

  • The Avon Initiative in Immunotherapy for Breast Cancer. The initiative will draw upon Hutch and UW expertise in immonology and immunotherapy to develop strategies for breast-cancer immunotherapy. Included will be targeted pilot-project funding and the launching of an Avon fellowship in immunotherapy for breast cancer.
  • The Avon Breast Cancer Research Fund. This will encompass pilot projects in all aspects of breast-cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment, building on a successful model of pilot-project support at the Hutch that has encouraged new scientists to enter the breast-cancer field and identified projects with high potential for expansion into externally funded studies.
  • The Avon Initiative in Breast Imaging. Faculty research into new technologies for breast imaging and optimized screening strategies for specific groups of women will be funded, as will an Avon fellowship in breast imaging.

Research crusade

Avon launched in 1993 what it has called a crusade to fund medical research into prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of breast cancer, particularly for underserved women. The cosmetics firm has raised funds through "pink ribbon" fund-raising products and, since 1998, three-day, 60-mile walks.

The Hutch is part of a network of 17 Avon-funded institutions and organizations and more than 500 community-based breast-health programs in 46 states and Washington, D.C.

Worldwide, Avon has supported programs for breast cancer and other women's health issues in 30 countries since 1992.


Medically underserved women to get database, care coordinator, 'safety net' fund via Avon gift

Clinicians and researchers at Harborview Medical Center and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance will set up a breast-care program for women who are medically underserved, as part of the Avon gift.

As one of 100 national "safety net" hospitals, Harborview already delivers comprehensive primary and specialty medical services to county residents, as well as serving as a four-state trauma and burn center.

The Avon funding will allow the new program for underserved women to:

  • Build a clinical database to more effectively track women through the medical system and identify interventions that would improve screening rates and follow-up through the process of breast-cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment.
  • Fund a breast patient-care coordinator who will devote full time to provide breast health-care education and serve as case manager and advocate to the racially and ethnically diverse women seen at Harborview.
  • Establish an Avon Breast Health Care Safety Net Fund to provide last-resort funding for diagnostic or clinical-trial procedures not covered by other government or private sources.
  • Establish a teleconference between Harborview and Alliance multidisciplinary clinical tumor-board conferences that will enhance clinical management through increased communication and provide opportunities for underserved women to participate in clinical trials.
  • Identify barriers to care and clinical-trial participation through qualitative and quantitative research about experiences, behaviors and clinical outcomes among underserved women and develop and test interventions to reduce those barriers.

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