Awareness, early diagnosis and effective treatments are all vital to the fight against breast cancer
Monday, 8 October 2012
Breast cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide. Early detection to improve the chances of survival remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control. Alongside effective treatments, awareness of the disease and the benefits of early detection is vital. Here we talk about our contribution to raising awareness and our continued commitment in the field of breast cancer treatment.
Raising the profile
AstraZeneca was instrumental in the founding of Breast Cancer Awareness Month over a quarter of a century ago. Each October, with the support of companies like AstraZeneca, charities across the globe place a special focus on raising awareness and funds, to provide education around breast cancer prevention, tumour detection and treatment, and to ensure greater access to screening services.
AstraZeneca Japan, for example, is holding an event in Osaka to raise awareness, promote breast health check-ups and raise funds for the Japan Fund for Breast Cancer through sales of Pink Ribbon badges. And at health institutions in Brazil, AstraZeneca supports the “A Meeting with Self-Esteem” project which brings together women currently undergoing cancer therapies, and their families and caregivers, with former breast cancer patients, in order to share feelings, pass on information and build self-confidence.
A personal connection
October is also a perfect time to salute the courage of the millions of women around the world who live with breast cancer or have beaten the disease.
AstraZeneca Business Analyst Jacqueline Wilson is clear on the key strengths of Breast Cancer Awareness Month: “It’s really important that the noise around breast cancer awareness is maintained. It helps to challenge the stigma, and educate women about the huge benefits of early detection and the range of available treatments.”
Jacqueline recently celebrated the personal milestone of being 10 years cancer-free: “I had early stage breast cancer, but with a very aggressive tumour that had reached my lymph nodes. Although my treatment regime was complex, involving chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery and drug therapies, I consider myself very lucky that they caught my disease just in time.
Her experiences gave Jacqueline a unique perspective on her work in oncology: “It made me much more passionate about finding novel treatment options, especially those that will help reduce the chemotherapy burden on patients.”
Fighting the disease
Susan Galbraith, a UK-trained clinical oncologist and Head of AstraZeneca’s Oncology Innovative Medicines Group, is also a strong advocate of Breast Cancer Awareness Month:
The industry’s support of these initiatives and its commitment to developing new drugs to tackle the disease is a clear reminder of the important underlying reason: hundreds of thousands of women across the world lose their lives to breast cancer every year.
The fight against the disease is about meeting global unmet needs, and Susan is clear on AstraZeneca’s approach: “We achieve success by harnessing new scientific techniques, and working in strong partnership networks. This collaboration is absolutely essential given the complexity of the challenge. We have a world class global alliance network, where we partner on pre-clinical collaborations and delivery of clinical trials, with many partner bodies, including academic institutions, charities, and other biopharmaceutical companies.
“The key message is that breast cancer is not just a single disease, there are multiple different subtypes, each driven by different molecular factors. So if we can better understand that complexity, we can better target our agents to treat those women that are most likely to benefit.”
AstraZeneca’s vision for oncology is about redefining cancer, and redefining our solutions for tackling cancer, as Susan Galbraith explains.
“Redefining cancer means going from a histological classification of tumour cell identification, to a new approach using genomic profiling technologies to help us understand the molecular drivers in a particular cancer cell.
“So we’re able to get a segmentation of the disease, and define whether each segment is driven by estrogen receptors (ER), insulin-like growth factor (IGF), or human epidermal growth factor-2 (HER2). We then redefine our solutions by matching the right drug to the right patient, treating them with the appropriate molecular signature.
“It’s also about increasing our knowledge of the disease areas. So as well as developing the right drugs, we need to know about how best to use that drug in combination with others, and which diagnostic tests will best identify the appropriate patients.
“This holistic approach helps us deliver an overall package solution to healthcare providers that provides maximum benefit to the patients they are treating.”