Hutch News Stories

A $1 million gift from Avon

'Progress for Patients' program pairs foundation, National Cancer Institute to support breast-cancer biomarker study overseen by Fred Hutchinson
Avon Bottles
The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade promotes women's health in a variety of walking and running events that raise funds for breast-cancer research. Photo courtesy of Avon

Fred Hutchinson will lead a $1 million, four-institution effort to study the validation of a breast-cancer biomarker panel among women at high risk of breast cancer.

The funds, totaling $998,538, come from the "Progress for Patients" award program, a unique public-private partnership of the Avon Foundation and the National Cancer Institute. Fred Hutchinson will receive approximately $250,000 in each of the first two years of the study.

Other institutions in the Fred Hutchinson-led study are the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center, Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, all of which house federally funded Specialized Programs in Research Excellence (SPOREs) in breast and/or ovarian cancer.

Dr. Nicole Urban of the Public Health Sciences Division will serve as principal investigator of the biomarker-validation group.

"Such collaboration is crucial in order to pool our access to high-risk women who harbor the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, which increases risk for both breast and ovarian cancer," Urban said.

The grant is one of six totaling $2.5 million announced by Avon/NCI this month to help fund innovative, translational science at 10 research institutions. The grants encompass all areas of clinical investigation important to breast cancer, including prevention, detection, diagnosis, prediction, prognosis and treatment, such as the use of aromatase inhibitors as a prevention tool and new methods of radioimmunotherapy for women with metastatic disease.

$20 million pledge

The Progress for Patients program was launched in October 2001 when the NCI received a $20 million pledge from the Avon Foundation to fund translational research on breast cancer. The pledge is Avon's largest single award ever.

"In partnership with the NCI, we believe we can reverse historic disparities in health care while greatly accelerating important research in prevention, detection and treatment of breast cancer," said Kathleen Walas, president of the Avon Foundation.

The funds were raised by the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, which has generated more than $200 million in the United States from 1993 to mid-year 2002. Avon is one of the world's leading corporate supporters of the breast-cancer cause, with programs in nearly 50 countries and the only one to fund the whole spectrum of the breast cancer cause - medical research, clinical care, support services, education and early detection - with a focus on medically underserved women.

Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, NCI director, gave final approval to the Avon/NCI grants.

"I'm extremely pleased that the funding will support well-designed research that includes minorities and the underserved," he said. "This investment by Avon will help NCI to close the gap between discovery and delivery in breast-cancer research."

In addition to the Progress for Patients funding, the Avon Foundation supports junior investigators and promising areas research that are under-funded by other sources. Funds are generated in the United States by fund-raising walks and "pink ribbon" products sold by 550,000 Avon representatives, as well as local and national events. Avon also supports breast-cancer programs in nearly 50 countries. By the end of this year, Avon will have raised $250 million since 1992, when the crusade was launched.

Of that, the Avon crusade has provided Fred Hutchinson with more than $4 million in breast-cancer research funding.

[Story compiled from Avon Foundation press releases.]

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