From Sidewalks to Science: An On-Route Look at Komen’s Research with Dr. Maria Soledad Sosa

Opening Ceremonies

Dr. Sosa, can you tell us a bit about what led you to do breast cancer research?

My mom was diagnosed with ER+ breast cancer 18 years ago. Two years ago, her cancer returned and she needed a second round of treatment. Fortunately, she is doing well. My personal experience with this disease greatly impacted my decision to work in this field, and inspires me every day as I work to make an impact in breast cancer research.

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On the Route

Since we’ve got some time, could you tell us a bit about your current research?

Metastasis (or the spread of breast cancer to other organs) is what kills people with breast cancer. My research is aimed to avoid metastasis before it even begins by targeting the “seeds” of those metastases. These seeds are named DCC (disseminated cancer cells) and are “asleep” in the body, and can be found in important organs like the liver and bones even before a primary tumor is detected. But something causes them to wake up and become aggressive. I believe if we can figure out how these DCCs behave and spread, we might find strategies to eliminate them before they reactivate and form metastases.

At Camp

Now that we’ve made it “home” for the night and are enjoying the support of our crew, can you tell us about how your work would be affected without Komen funding?

Komen funding is imperative to my research. With Komen’s support, I can look for ways to keep these dangerous DCCs “asleep” so they can’t grow and become metastatic tumors. It also allows us to find ways to eliminate DCCs while sleeping. My hope is that this work could someday lead to a cure for metastatic breast cancer.

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Day 2

What would you say to somebody who’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer?

My advice to people would be to have hope and be diligent about your own care. People with no sign of breast cancer should continue to follow-up with their doctor, follow the doctor’s recommendations, and continue to get screened every six to 12 months after treatment has stopped. It was a follow-up screening that helped my mom detect her breast cancer recurrence early. Typically, after a person is treated for breast cancer they are considered to have no sign of breast cancer. However, some people may have DCCs in vital organs that are “asleep.” They could stay like that for years — even decades in the case of ER+ BRCA patients — so it’s important to understand that risk and be proactive about screening. Early detection and follow-up could save the life of a person with no evidence of disease.

Cheering Station

Look at all of these enthusiastic supporters out along the route! Tell us about how you are involved with Komen outside of the lab.

I’m excited to be one of four Komen-funded grantees selected for the Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) Research Grant crowdfunding opportunity, where anyone can donate funds to support a research project or researcher of their choice. You can learn more about my story on the Komen Facebook page and donate directly to my Komen-funded MBC research project here!

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Closing Ceremonies

Thanks for walking with us, Dr. Sosa. One final question, in working with patient advocates, how have they impacted your research by bringing the patient perspective?

Sandra Spivey is the patient advocate for my grant, and was so helpful in developing the Letter of Intent and grant proposal. She is very supportive, giving me feedback on how to highlight the patient perspective. I was amazed by her energy and passion. Even when she got sick, she kept working and sending me comments for this grant. I really appreciate all her help, and I am sure she will have a positive impact on my research.

Dr. Maria Sosa is an Assistant Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and you can donate to her research project directly through Komen’s crowd funding web page. Since 1982, Susan G. Komen has funded $956 million in breast cancer research, second only to the U.S. government and more than any other nonprofit in the world. Learn more here.

Pit Stop

Three things to know about Dr. Sosa:

  1. I like dancing. And as an Argentinean woman, I dance tango!
  2. In my free time, I love to paint
  3. My family enjoys being outside and being active — doing things like hiking, kayaking, and swimming.

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Grab and Go

Here are three ways you can use this information to help reach your 3-Day fundraising or recruiting goals:

Sample Tweet:

Having seen the effects of breast cancer in her own family, Dr. Maria Soledad Sosa is now conducting research aimed to avoid breast cancer metastasis before it even begins! Learn more about her research here:

Sample Facebook Post:

Having seen the effects of breast cancer in her own family, Dr. Maria Soledad Sosa is now conducting research aimed to avoid breast cancer metastasis before it even begins! Komen funding has been imperative to her research, and she hopes to one day find the cure for metastatic breast cancer! Learn more about her work here:

Why We Walk: The Next Generation Takes on the 3-Day

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We love our participants of all ages, and every year a new crop of walkers joins the 3-Day family. Whether they come from up from the Youth Corps, are recruited by a current 3-Day walker, or join us after years of walker stalking, seeing the smile on a young walker’s face makes our Pink Bubble fill with so much love.

We talked to some of our younger participants who have become loyal 3-Day walkers in the last few years. They’re telling us why they walk now, and why they will continue to walk for years to come.

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Sisters Sara B. Michigan 3-Day

“This journey started 12 years ago when I watched a 3-Day commercial. I was inspired to help change the world and give back to something that was meaningful. Three years after I started, my Nana, my best friend, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought for 10 months and lost her battle. So now, I walk in memory of my Nana. Every mile I walk, pain endured, and tear I cry is worth it because my Nana lost her life to breast cancer. Watching her fight that battle was one of the hardest things I have done. All the pain and suffering she endured is not something that people should have to go through. I know that every time I do this walk it will be meaningful because I will be walking in memory of her. She was my HERO and I owe it to her to fight to help find a cure! She influenced my life in many ways and helped shape the person I am today and I want her memory to live on.”

And Courtney B., Michigan 3-Day

“10 years ago when I signed up to walk, I thought I would be joining my sister on a fun filled weekend to raise money for a great charity. However, the walk quickly became so much more when our Nana was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Throughout her ten month journey, we learned so much about the wonderful things Susan G Komen® does… not only drug trials but through their local chapters. It was a no brainer for us to continue this journey. I continue to walk because over the past ten years, so much progress has been made in the world of breast cancer because of the money we raise and although my Nana wasn’t able to beat cancer, I know millions of others who are surviving daily.”

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Emily H., Michigan 3-Day

“I took my first steps on the 3-Day for my mother-in-law Lori. Her diagnosis is the reason breast cancer is a part of my life. But what started as her journey quickly became mine. I walk for my daughters, sisters, mother, and the ones that will come after us. Every story that was shared with me during my first 3-Day opened my eyes to the raw fact that cancer does not discriminate, not for race, age, size, family, or money. In a society that is filled with tiers of class (your age, your weight, your marital status, your job) breast cancer effects a little bit of all of us. By natural I am a maternal person. I am always looking to help those around me, and when I was introduced to the 3-Day I saw it as a way to help the people of the world I do not know. The ones that might not be a lucky as my family, who get to celebrate their survivor.

I take every step with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face because I know that with that step I become More Than Pink and am one step closer to helping a stranger celebrate their survivor.”

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Jesse (in his chicken costume) with his mom

Jesse K., Philadelphia 3-Day

“There are many reasons, but every time I walk the list of reasons continues to expand. I started participating in the walks with my mom Jane when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. I did this to support my mother in the efforts to help eliminate breast cancer from people’s lives. As I walked with my mom each year I began to realize that we were not just walking to help fight breast cancer, but also for support. This support was something that helped my mom through her journey with breast cancer. This support for my mom came from deepening her friendship with established friends, meeting new friends and sharing stories and emotionally supporting each other through their journeys. These things were accomplished through the 3-Day walk and I don’t think there is another situation that could have facilitated such a supportive and understanding network of people. These people helped keep a smile on my mom’s face and passion to fight in her heart until breast cancer eventually took her life. Until my mom passed I didn’t fully appreciate this network of support.

While walking this past year for the first time after my mom had passed I did a lot of reflecting and realized that this support network of 3-Day friends was just as important to my journey as it was to my mom’s. I will continue to walk because every year I make new friends who help keep a smile on my face and passion in my heart despite the heartbreak I have experienced. These amazing people are also added to the list of reasons why I walk. I hope that I am as supportive and motivational for them as they are for me.”

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Kimberly C., Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day

“In 2012 I joined the Youth Corps when my mom first started walking. At the time, I joined for three people in my life.

I was named after my mom’s best friend, Kim, who passed away from breast cancer in 2000 at the age of 39. She lived just long enough to see me born. I don’t have any memories of her personally but her family has become an extension of mine. Her mother is like a grandmother to me and her children are like cousins. All the stories I’ve ever heard about her just highlight how amazing of a woman she was, and it just isn’t fair that she left us so soon.

I also joined because of my Aunt Kay. She also passed away from breast cancer and I never really got the chance to know her. I love it when my cousins share stories about her, and it just emphasizes the fact that yet another person was taken too early from this world.

At the time, I also joined the Youth Corps because of my Great Aunt Julia, who I called Dudu. Before I was born she had battled breast cancer and won, and had been in remission for almost 15 years. About two months before the 2012 Dallas/Fort Worth event, her breast cancer came back. To me, it was a sign that this event was a necessity.

For three years I was on the Dallas/Fort Worth Youth Corps, and in 2015 I finally walked my first walk. Sadly, about a month before the Dallas/Fort Worth event that year, my Great Aunt passed away. That gave me the drive to walk those 60 miles and never give up.

In 2016, my second and third grade teacher, Shawn, was diagnosed with breast cancer. In elementary school, she helped to mold the person that I am, and was quite possibly the best teacher I’ve ever had. Luckily, after a yearlong battle she is officially in remission. I wrote her letters every week to read during chemo and she has always been supportive of me on the 3-Day but now she says she is so thankful. I walk for her.

Since I started walking in 2015, I have walked five events in three cities, and will be walking my 6th and 7th, on my 9th and 10th event. I am 18 now and plan to keep walking until I don’t have a reason to any more.”

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Elizabeth G., Michigan 3-Day

“When I was eight, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I didn’t fully understand what was happening at the time, I just knew that she wasn’t home as much and had to go to the hospital for treatments. As she was going through her treatment plan, part of it changed as new research that was done at the University of Michigan, funded by Susan G. Komen, showed that she could have fewer chemotherapy treatments but it would still be effective. This meant that she could have 27 fewer chemotherapy infusions, and was able to be at home for 27 more days than she was supposed to. She finished her treatment plan, and has been considered cured for 11 years.

In 2010, a close family friend started a 3-Day team in my mom’s honor. We went up to Michigan to cheer her on, and that’s when I knew I wanted to be a part of this amazing event. My mom joined the team the next year, but I couldn’t participate as I had to wait a few years more until I turned 16. The year I turned 16, I knew I wanted to walk, I did, and I was hooked. This year will be my 6th event, and I’m so excited. Someone walked for my mom, and now I’m able to walk for someone else. Knowing that the money I raise makes a difference is what keeps me going, and I’m so blessed that I can walk 60 miles with my mom by my side. I walk so that other kids are able to have their mom by their side for all the important events, like my mom can be.”

Are you joining us this year on the 3-Day? Tell us where in the comments!

If you haven’t registered yet, don’t forget to sign up before February 5th so you can get $20 off your registration fee at The3Day.org

Crew Heroes: The Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day Medical Team

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The 3-Day could not happen without the tireless work of all our crew members. They are up before the sun rises, working hard to make sure that every part of the 3-Day, and every participant on those 60 miles, has the best and most inspiring experience possible. One integral crew team is the Medical Crew, who support everyone all weekend long.

This team provides medical assistance and evaluation for minor injuries, at pit stops along the route and at camp. The treat all kinds of issues, including sunburn, allergic reactions, abrasions and lacerations, dehydration, hyponatremia, asthma and some respiratory problems, hypo- and hyperthermia, and blisters. While most walkers make it through the 3-Day without medical issues, it’s comforting to know that there’s a crew of professionals there to help us if we need it.

Janette, one of the leaders on our Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day Medical Team, and a Parker University Clinical Faculty Doctor-Associate Professor, says that consistent and dedicated service is what the 3-Day Medical Crew prides itself on.

with Dr Keith Johnson - 12 yr vet of DFW Komen

“Some of the Medical Crew are available 24/7 and that is an amazing feat! I am honored to be in that tent with so many dedicated professionals.”

Some of those in the tent with Janette are her 12-15 interns, assisted by 10-12 staff doctors, who all come from Parker University. Interns are required to apply and are then chosen for the 3-Day team according to their level of skill with sports-related injury and an essay to the selection committee indicating why they want to serve. Janette loves serving with her team, and thinks being a part of the 3-Day is such an important experience for her young interns to see how much good the medical profession does in the world.

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“Exposing young interns to this life-changing event has been such an eye-opening experience for me. The interns are literally changed-forever over the 3-Day, and to be present to help, assist and observe their transformation has been life changing for me also.

“Being one of the lead Doctors serving the Medical Team is a huge responsibility to say the least. We are all so very serious that the care we give is the absolute BEST possible.”

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Aside from the professional development and inspiration that she gets from the 3-Day, Janette also loves connecting with the walkers, hearing their stories, and helping them achieve their goals. On event this year in Dallas/Fort Worth, she teared up talking about what an impact participants have had on her personally. She walked the final mile this year, and one of her favorite memories of the whole weekend was watching one of her interns cross the finish line to cheers from onlookers.

“The 3-Day is truly a servant’s paradise; while putting others before ourselves, we are reminded how fortunate we are in many, many ways.”

Keep an eye out for Janette and the Parker University team on-event next year, because she promises that “as long as we are invited to serve, we will represent Parker University to the best of our abilities.”

Thanks for being there if we need you, Medical Crew!