GW Receives $275,000 in Grants from the Avon Foundation

11th Annual Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Washington, D.C. Raises $4.5 Million
Patricia Berg and Mandi Pratt-Chapman holding large checks from the Avon Foundation and standing outdoors

WASHINGTON (May 7, 2013) –The Avon Foundation announced $275,000 in grants to The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) and GW Cancer Institute (GWCI), at the close of the 11th annual Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Washington, D.C.

Carol Kurzig, president of the Avon Foundation for Women, announced during the closing ceremony a total of $2.26 million in grants to ten local organizations, ensuring the funds raised immediately benefit the community. “These grants represent only a portion of the funding that the Avon Foundation will distribute in the D.C. area and across the country this year, but we want to make sure that the impact of this Walk begins today,” said Kurzig. GW received two out of the ten grants.

First, the Avon Foundation presented researcher Patricia Berg, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine, with a check for $150,000 to assist with research on the early detection of breast cancer.  Berg is studying a gene she discovered and cloned.  She has shown that this gene, called BP1, is activated or turned on in 80 percent of women with breast cancer.  Berg also discovered that the presence of BP1 protein increases as breast cancer progresses from normal tissue to aggressive breast cancer.  BP1 is associated with increased cell growth, resistance to drugs and with metastasis.  Moreover, BP1 protein can control other genes, including several oncogenes known to cause breast cancer. The Avon grant will allow her to develop very sensitive assays for the detection of BP1 protein that may be important in the early diagnosis of breast cancer as well as in predicting how aggressive a tumor will be based on BP1 protein, thus allowing a physician to make decisions on the treatment to be used on individual patients.

A $125,000 check was also presented to Mandi Pratt-Chapman, M.A., associate director of GWCI Community Programs, to support the GWCI’s Avon Patient Navigator in helping the District’s most vulnerable women receive treatment and care. The grant was presented by the Avon Safety Net Hospital Program and will enable GWCI to help guide 600 women with adverse mammograms to diagnosis and support 180 diagnosed women across the cancer care continuum in the year ahead, thus removing 900 barriers to care experienced by breast cancer patients. The grant will help support process improvements to elevate quality in the delivery of breast cancer care at GW. GWCI has already developed an educational module to help educate community health centers on appropriate Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes and referral processes to make the diagnostic experience of patients smoother. This grant will help GWCI reach additional community health centers, as well as improve tracking of women to decrease loss of follow-up, develop a barriers-to-care screening tool to help optimize patient time with their physician, and share the tool through its national Center for the Advancement of Cancer Survivorship, Navigation and Policy.

"We are so pleased that the Avon Foundation recognizes our lifesaving work in patient navigation," said Pratt-Chapman, a principal investigator (PI) for this grant. "Without Avon's support and the leadership of co-PI Dr. Rachel Brem, the director of the GW Breast Imaging and Intervention Center, this work would simply not be possible."

The Avon Walk Washington, D.C. attracted 2,000 participants from 40 states and Washington, D.C., hailing from the United States of America, Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom. Additionally, 290 breast cancer survivors and 302 men joined together to raise life-saving funds and awareness for breast cancer.

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