Breast cancer survivors applaud Komen foundation efforts - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Breast cancer survivors applaud Komen foundation efforts

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Dana Curish heads up Komen Indy. Dana Curish heads up Komen Indy.
Bridget Spence was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 21. Bridget Spence was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 21.
INDIANAPOLIS -

This Saturday, it's a race to end breast cancer. Indianapolis hosts one of the largest Komen Race for the Cure events in the country.

But this year, the numbers are down. About 17,400 people have signed up for this year's race, down from 37,000 two years ago.

"I promised my sister that I would that I would do everything I could to end breast cancer," said Nancy Brinker, Susan G. Komen for the Cure CEO and founder.

Brinker lost her sister, Susan G. Komen, to breast cancer more than 30 years ago. From that devastating loss, the largest grassroots breast cancer network in the world was born.

"Nancy took a shoe box full of cards and $200 and a typewriter and formed the Susan. G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and 33 years later they have raised over $2 billion to fight breast cancer," said Dana Curish, Komen central Indiana executive director.

The foundation pays for breast cancer research, treatments and education.

"Komen remains the second largest funder of breast cancer research in the country - second only to the federal government," said Dr. Robert Goulet, Community Breast Care medical director.

That research is saving lives.

"When Komen was founded, if a woman was diagnosed very, very early, when cancer was confined to her breast,she had a 74 percent chance of surviving beyond five years. Now it's 98 percent," said Curish.

Komen research has also helped extend lives. Some women living with stage four late stage breast cancer are living longer.

Women like Bridget Spence, diagnosed at age 21 and surviving seven years later:

"Twenty years ago, my presence here would have been impossible, but because of the drugs funded by Komen research, I am living with cancer," said Spence.

"I was able to walk down the aisle in 2009 with a full head of hair and marry my college sweetheart," she said.

"Thirty-three years ago, there was one way of treatment. Radical surgery and chemo for everybody. Now they can individualize treatment. They can test a woman's tumor and see what treatment will work on her tumor," said Curish.

Curish has experienced the benefits of breast cancer research and treatments personally.

"I'm a two-time survivor myself. First time 22 years ago, second time six years ago. I could see the difference in my two diagnoses and how far we've come," she said.

Exciting new research has scientists looking for biomarkers in cancer cells.

"Biomarkers are targets. The biomarkers we are talking about right now are genetic targets that we can use, A, to help us diagnose a disease and B, more importantly to serve as targets for therapy in the future," said Dr. Goulet.

Doctors say research is moving incredibly rapidly. When you join the Race for the Cure, you are helping raise money for Komen research and treatments that can protect women today and our daughters tomorrow.

The race is this Saturday, April 20th. There is still time to register for yourself or get a team together.

See registration information here.

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