From Sidewalks to Science: An On-Route Look at Komen’s Research with Dr. Katherine Hoadley

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Opening Ceremonies

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

When I started my breast cancer research 16 years ago, I did not have a personal connection to the disease. However, over the years, I have come to work closely with patient advocates and the breast cancer survivor community through my volunteer efforts with Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. My interaction with breast cancer survivors has had a positive impact on my research in several ways.  Hearing their stories has been a strong motivational factor for my daily research activities and has helped me improve my ability to share my genomics research with the public.

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On The Route

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

My work is focused on breast cancer classification and better understanding the molecular events that define different subsets of the disease or what we call molecular subtypes.  One subtype called basal-like is an aggressive form of cancer that is enriched with triple negative breast cancers, cancers that are negative for estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor and lack amplification of HER2. Comparing breast cancers with other cancer types from the Cancer Genome Atlas, I found the basal-like subtype was distinct from other breast cancers. This, along with different risk profiles, mutations, and cancer progression suggests they represent a unique subset of breast cancers.  My current research is further classifying this aggressive breast cancer type and analyzing clinical trial data to determine if we can predict response to therapy.

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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?

This grant has allowed me to set up some of my own independent research on breast cancer. I also work closely with other Komen-funded researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill using the Komen-funded Carolina Breast Cancer Study to investigate racial differences in the PAM50 molecular subtyping.

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

I am not a clinician and do not feel qualified to give advice to breast cancer patients. However, I think it is important that patients know they can have an important impact on research.  They can help shape the focus of research and guide us to fit the needs of the breast cancer community.

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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 have been volunteering at the Raleigh, North Carolina Komen Race for the Cure for the last 14 years.  I started with day of event volunteering and later increased my involvement by becoming the co-chair of the Survivor’s Committee and have been highly involved in the race planning committee for the last seven years.  I help oversee the Survivors’ Tent, Survivors’ Tribute and Celebration, and the Survivor Awards. I have come to know so many of the female and male breast cancer survivors in my area and have enjoyed seeing them return each year and offer support to survivors who attend their first race. I also attend the Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast Research Luncheon and Young Researchers Round Table Breakfasts that bring together researchers in the community.

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Mile 59

The finish line is in sight! In working with patient advocates, how have they impacted your research from a patient perspective?

I have been fortunate to interact with patient advocates through both my own grant work and in participation at grant study sections. They helped me gain a better understanding of the full picture of cancer treatment and effects on the person, their family, and the community.  I have seen the impact advocates have had in making patient-reported outcomes move toward reality and how that has translated into better overall care for the patient.

As a researcher working with genomic and clinical data, data sharing and availability has always been an important issue.  While advancements were made during the microarray era for making data available, we have now moved into sequencing, which brings up additional privacy and safety concerns.  However, most patient advocates and survivors I have talked to want the information about their cancers shared.  By involving patient advocates, we can ensure that we share data in a manner that is protective of patient privacy yet continues to support future research.

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Closing Ceremonies

Thanks for walking us through your research, Dr. Hoadley! Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our walkers, crew and supporters?

Part of my research is analyzing molecular data from a recent clinical trial.  While the analysis is early, we hope we will be able to evaluate and determine predictors of who will respond to chemotherapy so we can help improve future clinical trials and treatment choices.

Dr. Katherine Hoadley is an Assistant Professor in Cancer Genetics at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and has been a Career Catalyst Research grantee since 2016. 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.

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Pit Stop

Three things to know about Dr. Hoadley:

  1. My dad is a scientist and was in graduate school when I was born. He encouraged my love of science by taking me to the lab throughout my childhood.
  2. I grew up in West Virginia; the mountains always will draw me more than an ocean.
  3. I ran track in high school and college and I still hold my high school’s high jump record.

Grab and Go 

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

  1.  Breast cancer is not a singular disease. There are many types that affect people in a wide range of ways. Komen-funded research into all forms of breast cancer can lead to new treatments and informative work towards a cure.
  2. You make a difference! Patients can have an important impact on research, by helping shape its focus, and guiding researchers like Dr. Hoadley find ways to fit the needs of all members of the breast cancer community.
  3. Money raised stays in the local communities. Dr. Hoadley, for example, has been volunteering at Komen events in Raleigh, North Carolina for 14 years. Now, she is also collaborating with other researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill thanks to a Komen grant.

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Sample Tweets:

Take an On-Route Look at @SusanGKomen’s Research in our latest “Sidewalks to Science” chat with Komen-grantee Dr. Katherine Hoadley. She is researching new forms of #breastcancer in search of a cure! (link) #The3Day

Sample Facebook Post:

Take an On-Route Look at @SusanGKomen’s Research in our latest “Sidewalks to Science” chat with Dr. Katherine Hoadley! She, and other researchers and scientific advocates, are making great strides in cancer research, especially in the research of new forms of breast cancer to help find a cure! (link) #The3Day

Susan G. Komen 3-Day Coaches’ Favorite Memories from 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, we are taking a look back at all the wonderful 3-Days of 2016. We celebrated our 150th 3-Day Walk in Michigan this year, and all of the 3-Days had many high points. The Susan G. Komen 3-Day Coaches spent the entire year supporting walkers, crew members and volunteers across the country, and when the event season began in August, they hit the road alongside our walkers. With that in mind, we asked the 3-Day coaches to share their favorite memories from the 2016 3-Day season.

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Gayla (Dallas/Fort Worth Local Events Coach) – At the 2016 #MI3Day I was the caboose. When I  passed by Elizabeth’s Bridal Manor behind the last walkers, Elizabeth was outside and asked me all about the 3-Day. She said she had been outside cheering on the walkers as they passed and told me she’s a breast cancer survivor herself. After chatting a while she asked me to wait a minute while she walked inside. She came back outside with a $40 cash donation.

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Some of Gayla’s other top memories include:

  • Hanging out with the Survivors and Honor flag bearers at DFW 3-Day rehearsal.
  • Stealing a box of grahamwiches with the DFW3Day coaches and getting caught on camera by the 3-Day Social Media Manager, Alyssa!
  • Toasting in DFW to 150 events and the beautiful rainbow after the Closing Ceremony in DFW.

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Kathleen (Seattle Crew & Volunteer Coordinator) – The Seattle Bike Police were out in full force in Seattle this year. I was also the staff person on pit stop 2 in Dallas, where they built an incredible Wizard of Oz themed world!

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Jen (Seattle Participant Coach) – One of my memories is of Terri Z. (wearing the pink hat in the middle of the photo). Terri has mostly walked in Philadelphia and I worked with her when I was the Philly coach. She doesn’t use email or a computer, so all of our communication was via phone, which doesn’t happen all that often! In all of our talks, she never mentioned she is a breast cancer survivor. I saw her coming in with the survivors and was shocked as she never had mentioned it. She told me after the event that walking into the Closing Ceremony was one of the most moving memories of her life. J

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Jen (Seattle Participant Coach) – Another memory is of Kathy B. (left hand side of photo). Kathy was our Local Impact Award winner and also spoke at camp on Friday night. She is battling triple negative breast cancer. I got to know her in the couple of weeks leading up to the event and can honestly say I will be forever touched by her story and strength. Amazing, amazing lady.

Ann (Michigan Field Marketing Coordinator) – My favorite moments in 2016 were all the times I walked into a pit stop or camp and a walker shouted my name. It’s always so great to connect with folks that I don’t get to see all the time and I love seeing them out on the route. It’s always so wonderful to hear about how their walk is going!

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Jennifer (Michigan Participant Coach) – One favorite memory happened in Michigan and that was sharing the experience with my husband, Charles.  He is not new to the 3-Day but he was new to the Michigan 3-Day and it was fun to hear about his experiences on the route and at the event, which differ greatly from my own.

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Jennifer also said, I loved getting all of the 2016 Series walkers and crew (those participating in all 7 events) in one place for a group photo.  I am the coach who works closely with this group throughout the year, mainly so they simply have one point of contact.  This group is hard to wrangle into one spot so I choose Friday morning, before the Opening Ceremony, in San Diego and we were lucky enough to get this group on the stage before the ceremony began.

These walkers who walked all 7 events this year (from the right in the photo, Jim, Carol, Dena, Pala, Karen, Ellen & Christa) and Kenny (far left of the photo) crewed all 7 events this year.

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Tisho (Philadelphia Participant Coach) – One of my favorite moments this year was being able to stand right inside the finish arch at the Philadelphia 3-Day and watch my participants come in. As a coach I spend so much time talking to people on the phone and over email but I rarely get to see them face to face. Having the opportunity to be right there as they achieve this huge milestone was simply amazing. One of these moments was captured in the beautiful photo above. Kathy DiRusso, captain of one of our top teams, The Cup Crusaders, walked in to the finish area, and I was able to greet her with a giant congratulatory hug. Finishing a 3-Day, whether it’s your first or your 21st is such an incredible mix of joy, pride and relief and I think this photo captures all of them. (Photo credit: Jim Hillman)

Eileen (Twin Cities Participant Coach) – One of my favorite memories was playing shuttle bus driver at lunch in the Twin Cities this year. Lunch was set up in the parking lot of a local school. It was cold and had been pouring rain all day. We decided to open the school as a place for our walkers to get out of the rain while they ate lunch.

The walkers had to walk past the entrance of the school to the other end of the property to pick up their lunches. So to get into the school the walkers would have to walk the route backwards about ½ a mile (and then re-walk it when they were done with lunch!).

Stephanie and I decided to run shuttles from the lunch pit stop back to the school entrance. We had so much fun doing it! It was a great afternoon and everyone appreciated our efforts.  The best part for me was that I got to meet a lot of walkers I would not normally meet.  Our long-time participants don’t often need a coach’s assistance so I don’t have many opportunities to get to know them.  This turned out to be a great way to finally put faces to the names I see every day!

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Several of our staff had memories about a very special participant, Barry Blauer, who celebrated a great milestone in Michigan this year. These are their memories with Barry!

Jennifer (Michigan Participant Coach) – I had a few favorite moments on the events this year but the number one for me happened in Michigan.  Barry Blauer is a long time 3-Day participant, and he celebrated a huge milestone while on the Michigan 3-Day this year, participating in more than 80 events.  Barry was one of the original series walkers back in the day, fundraising and walking in ALL 14 events in a single year and doing it more than once. In the last few years Barry has been battling ALS.  Even with his physical challenges Barry participated this year in the Michigan 3-Day.  He participated in a wheelchair mostly and had help along the way. With a little behind the scenes magic, Barry was the last walker into the Participant Finish Area on the Sunday of the event and it was emotional to witness but so powerful.  I was crying but I also had chills to watch his determination to WALK under that inflatable banner and all the way to the victory shirt tent.

After the Closing Ceremony, I helped Barry and his wife get back to their car and the last thing he said to me as I hugged him and congratulated him again was, “I will be back next year.” Barry is currently signed up as a crew member for the 2017 Michigan 3-Day.

Gina (Michigan Crew & Volunteer Coordinator) – The memory I have is Lloyd, one of our Route Safety Crew members, pushing Barry into the Participant Finish area. Everyone was on the feet, cheering, crying…paying tribute to Barry.

Gayla (Dallas/Fort Worth Local Events Coach) – Walking in behind long-time walker Barry Blauer in Michigan. He’s now walked 86 3-Day events!

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With all of these amazing memories, it’s not hard to see why our 3-Day community comes back every year to make their mark in the fight against breast cancer. 3-Dayers, we ask you; what’s YOUR favorite memory from 2016? Join us in reflection by posting in the comments!

Burt’s Bench: Meet Burt L., 3-Day Walker

There is a bench on Day 3 of the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day. It’s a beautiful bench, as far as benches go, with a shiny, smooth steel construction, and elegantly turned legs. It’s seated on a platform of river rocks, overlooking a fountain framed by trees. The hundreds of 3-Dayers who walk by this bench in Curtis Park may think it’s just a bench, but to 23-time participant Burt Lipshie it’s more than just a bench. This bench is the last place he talked to his cousin before she died of breast cancer.

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Burt’s cousin Judy is “my dearest, sweetest cousin in the whole world. Breast cancer killed her in 2004.”

It seems like a twist of fate brought Burt to the 3-Day. “A month or so after she died, I’m sitting in my office in New York, and Judy is everywhere. She’s just everywhere. It’s a hard thing to describe.”

Burt sent an email to Judy’s daughters, saying, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m having a Judy day today.” They wrote back and said they were not surprised, because they were, too. Why were they having a “Judy day,” other than dearly missing their mom?

Their answer to him: “We think our mom is proud of us because we just signed up to walk the 3-Day.”

Burt knew immediately that he would support the 3-Day. “I told them that I would donate… and I thought about it for two days. And then, I thought, no. They can’t do this without me. I’m going to do it too.”

Just two days later, Burt was signed up for his first ever 3-Day. “I had to find some way to fight back. This is the most meaningful way to fight back.”

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There was just one slight problem – the girls had already named their team “Juju’s Girls.”

“We changed the name to ‘Jujus Girls (And boy).’ We walked San Diego that year and I haven’t stopped. This is walk 23.”

What was this special woman like? Judy was “feisty.” Burt refused to tell her age, joking that he could hear Judy from heaven exclaiming, “Burt! What?! You’re telling my age?” She was the type of woman who was dying of breast cancer, but still taking care of her 91-year-old mother. Judy lived in Dallas most of her life, so Burt had plans to meet Judy at the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day. But by then, she was too sick to do it.

Towards the very end of the 60-mile route, Burt took a break from walking. “I’m sitting on the bench and I called to see how she was doing, and we talked for about five minutes. An hour later I got the call.”

To Burt, the bench in Curtis Park isn’t just a bench. It’s a tangible memory, a place that marks the devastation of this disease. It’s a place he visits every year before he walks sixty miles in the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day, an event that he’s raised more than $208,000 for. It’s a staggering sum that has no doubt helped countless men and women fighting breast cancer. By now, Burt is well-loved by all his fellow walkers and member of the 3-Day Crew. As Burt walks in his neon pink shoes and pink Yankees hat, walkers call out to him, “My man!” slapping high fives and posing for pictures.

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The bench is symbolic to all of us, because many places in the world become like Burt’s bench, marking the last place and time you talked to somebody you love.

When Burt comes to the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day, “It’s the first thing I do. I walk up Turtle Creek and I go up to the bench. And I sit on the bench for a little while, and I cry a little bit. And then I come back.”

Burt comes back because in this fight against breast cancer, you must always come back. You may be angry and grieving and devastated, but you must come back. Because, together, when we return to this fight, we are holding steadfast in our promise that we will never give up. And one day, Burt will sit on his bench and know that thanks to him and the help of people like you, more people like Judy will be saved.

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