Sidewalks to Science: Getting to Know Dr. Paula D. Bos, Ph.D. at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

With lab colleagues at VCU

Dedicating her life to finding a cure for breast cancer, Dr. Paula D. Bos is driven to help Komen meet our Bold Goal of reducing the current number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50% by 2026. As an Assistant Professor of Pathology, she and members of her lab are dedicated to developing new treatment options for breast cancer patients with metastatic brain tumors.

In this month’s Sidewalks to Science blog, we will get to know Dr. Bos a little better.

When I’m not in the lab I…

  • Enjoy the outdoors with my daughter and husband.
  • Love reading and baking with my daughter.
  • Am an enthusiastic follower of my daughter’s soccer team. As a native Argentinian, I am very passionate about soccer.

Family Picture at the beach

 What I do…targeting immune cells to treat brain metastases.

Although metastatic breast cancer has spread to another part of the body, it’s still considered and treated as breast cancer. Breast cancer that has spread to the brain is treated with breast cancer drugs, rather than treatments for a cancer that began in the brain. However, treatments that work for the primary breast tumor are often ineffective at treating the metastatic brain tumor. Current treatment strategies for brain metastasis, which include surgery and radiation, only offer some improvements for most patients. Therefore, I want to improve the options available to breast cancer patients that have developed brain metastases.

I am investigating how a type of immune cell called a regulatory T (Treg) cell helps breast cancer cells that have spread to the brain grow and survive. Tregs can be found in primary and metastatic breast tumors and correlate with poor patient prognosis. A normal function for Tregs is controlling immune responses, and researchers have shown these cells have the ability to suppress the immune system response against cancer. With my Komen funding, I’m studying how Treg cells support brain metastases. I’m trying to develop a treatment strategy to disrupt the support of breast cancer cells that have metastasized to the brain that could be used in patients.

Breast cancer…touches the lives of so many.

My aunt is a 12-year breast cancer survivor, and other types of cancers have taken dear family members and friends.

Working with patients…motivates my research strategy.

Through my research, I have met and come to admire an incredible group of advocates. Their strength and tireless efforts to bring awareness and increase funding for breast cancer research are a constant incentive to intensify our research efforts.

Dr. Paula Bos

People with breast cancer should…participate in clinical trials!

With new technologies available, science is progressing at a fast pace. We have seen major improvements in the treatment of cancer, especially with the immune system checkpoint blocking antibodies. Breast cancer has yet seen the benefit seen by other cancers, but several approaches are at the clinical trial stage.

Komen is…about patient advocacy!

I have always been motivated to do research to answer pressing clinical needs, but since I started working with patient advocates a few years ago, I now have a better understanding of where the priorities are. Involving advocates allows us to know we are on the right track to discover something of value to the patient community.

“Research is a challenging, expensive, and time-consuming activity. Knowing that patient advocates agree with the goals of our research is reassuring that we are on the right track to discover something of value.”

You can support Dr. Bos and her research by donating directly to her grant here.

If you or a loved one needs information or resources about clinical trials, call our Clinical Trial Information Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877- 465- 6636) or email clinicaltrialinfo@komen.org.

The helpline offers breast cancer clinical trial education and support, such as:

  • Knowing when to consider a trial
  • How to find a trial
  • How to decide which trial is best
  • What to expect during a trial
  • Information about clinical trial resources

2018 Philadelphia Susan G. Komen 3-Day Wrap Up

Over the weekend, hundreds of walkers gathered inside the Grand Ballroom at Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing ready to take on the fight against breast cancer. The 2018 Philadelphia 3-Day was the first 3-Day to feature a Camp inside of a hotel, and we were so very excited to pilot this intriguing new model for our 3-Day community.

An energetic Opening Ceremony further reminded us why our steps are so very important, and we took off into Philadelphia.

We walked past Independence Hall at 1.2 miles, and then into our first Pit Stop of the 3-Day weekend at mile 3.6, which was themed with bouncing balls. We continued on to Pit Stop 2 at West Fairmount Park, where our walkers stepped into a fairy tale with the Enchanted Pit Stop, complete with 3-Day Dwarves, “Crampy, Blistery, and Achy.”

The smiling faces of our crew at Pit Stop 2 propelled us forward into lunch at Chamounix Field, 9.2 miles into our route. We showed some team spirit with the Eagles theme, and enjoyed resting on our Mohawk pads and stretching before we took off for the final parts of the route.

While a little bit of rain came down, it didn’t dampen our spirits. A quick stop at Boob Street at Rodin Museum Grounds fueled us up for the remaining five miles of the day, and the community came out to cheer us in as we walked back into the Hilton.

The hotel was serving Philadelphia’s pretzels with pink salt, a perfect local treat to get us ready for dinner and a fun camp show where we awarded some of our participants’ amazing fundraising work, and rewarded milestone and impact award winners, Ronald MacDonald and Dawn Kifer. Then, it was off to bed so we could rest in anticipation of a beautiful Day two.

Day two greeted us with ideal weather and no humidity. Walkers tackled the cobble stone streets of the city, and walked past the art museum, where some walkers took a moment to recreate their Rocky moment and run up the stairs.

Next, we walked along the river while teams rowed in regatta races, and then climbed the hills to Belmont Mansion for its incredible views of the skyline. Then it was time for lions, tigers and bears as the route moved through the Philadelphia Zoo before returning back to camp at the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing.

Back at Camp, we relaxed in the zen-inducing Bank of America massage chairs and enjoyed a yummy dinner before an entertaining camp show and our classic 3-Day dance party. On Sunday we headed out to South Philly neighborhoods, with Mile 1 passing by Elfreth’s Alley. Walkers were cheered on by inflatable unicorns and dinosaurs, and we wished we could start every day that way.

We also walked by the dueling Pat and Geno’s Steak Shops at mile 11, with some walkers stopping for a yummy bite to eat. After some classic Philly fare, it was onwards past a cheering station at Marconi Plaza, and then past the Sports Complex (home of the Phillies, Flyers, Sixers and Eagles), being welcomed by the Eagles Drum and Bugle Corps who could be heard from a mile away. We also spotted another dancing unicorn — just the whimsical sight we needed to put some pep in our step as we marched toward Closing Ceremony.

 

The day ended at the historic Navy Yard under sunny skies, with dragon flies whizzing by, reminding us of loved ones lost checking up on us.

Closing Ceremonies were jam packed with friends and family waiting to celebrate our courageous walkers and crew. Together, we raised $2.1 million toward the fight to end breast cancer. Philadelphia, thank you. We are so honored and grateful for everything you do.

Honoring the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Lifetime Commitment Circle, as told by Burt L. 

In June 2018, we brought together participants who have shown leadership in fundraising and team development with Susan G. Komen’s mission team and Scientific Advisory Board for an inspiring appreciation and mission-focused event at Komen headquarters. We not only celebrate this group of participants, but all of our participants as the 3-Day is forever emblazoned on the wall at Komen headquarters. This wall will be replicated this year on all of our 3-Day events. If you’re a registered 3-Day participant, learn more about the Lifetime Commitment Circle here. We’re thrilled to share more about the Lifetime Commitment Circle experience by fellow Michigan and Dallas/Fort Worth walker, Burt Lipshie (now in his 15th year participating and 28th and 29th events).

What a weekend! Together with some 40 other people from around the country — including two from Alaska — I was flown to Dallas to participate in a “celebration” for those of us 3-Day walkers who have, over their lifetimes, raised more than $100,000 in the fight against breast cancer (one of the Alaskans is the all-time champion, with more than $400,000 raised). It was an unforgettable couple of days.

After checking in to our hotel, we gathered at Komen headquarters for dinner, and a talk by, and with, Komen’s CEO, Paula Schneider. Her focus, despite the strides and advances being made in this struggle, was on how much we still have to accomplish. There are 154,000 women in the United States today living with metastatic breast cancer (and we cannot forget — the widow of one of our lost walkers reminded us — about the number of men, as well). And we saw a film clip of an interview with one of them, a 39-year old mother of two, made last fall, that left us all teary-eyed — even before Paula told us that she lost her fight in March. And she was not alone. We still, again just in the United States, lose 40,000 women (and some 500 men) each year to breast cancer. The bold goal that Komen announced last year is to cut the number of deaths in half by 2026.

Susan G. Komen CEO Paula Schneider

On a lighter note, earlier in the week, one of the group circulated an email asking, “Who’s up for meeting at 5 am in the hotel lobby for a little training walk Friday morning. Seems fitting for this amazing group to walk together.” And, so, some 13 of us got up before dawn on Friday to do about 2 1/2 miles together, talking and laughing, before Friday’s programming. I’ve attached a picture of the group.

Then back to headquarters to spend the morning with Komen’s Scientific Advisory Board. These are some of the top folks in the breast oncology field who, among other things, guide Komen on making research grants. One of the members of the Board is not a doctor of medicine at all. She is a Doctor of Psychology, a therapist, and a 35-year breast cancer survivor. Her role on the Board is to be a patient advocate. Indeed, we learned, there must be a patient advocate on every team that Komen funds.

After our talk with the scientists, we had one of the powerful highlights of the event. The agenda called it simply an “Office Tour.” It was much, much, more. We piled into elevators to go from our large conference room up to the Komen offices. As each elevator door opened, we were greeted by a roar of cheering. All of the Komen employees were lined up on either side of a long hallway, cheering and waving pink pompoms.

And that wonderful moment led to the end of the hall, where, on a long wall, all of our names were inscribed. We all stood and gaped. We cried. We took a million pictures. No one wanted that moment to end.

But, somewhat behind schedule, we needed to go back downstairs, for a meeting with the heads of Komen’s various sections — Public Policy and Advocacy, Community and Network, Health Equity Initiatives, and Education and Patient Support. There are important things being done besides the scientific research.

The advocacy team is working on obtaining more federal funding for breast cancer research through the NIH and CDC. And, a big issue is insurance coverage and access to clinical trials. The various Komen local Affiliates provide more than $23,000,000 in grants each year, dealing with local issues, including the Treatment Assistance Programs. Komen’s recent 3-Day fundraising goal for the Treatment Assistance Program was $500,000. It raised some $650,000.

One of the major focuses going forward is the Health Equity Initiative. The death rate among African-American women diagnosed with breast cancer is 40% higher than white women. The rate of triple negative breast cancer — one of the most aggressive and deadliest — is dramatically higher in the African-American community. Why? Research is being done on whether there is a genetic cause, and if so, how to combat it. But, also, the statistics show that African-American women get diagnosed later, when the risk of death is greater, as is the cost of treatment.

Sadly, by Friday afternoon, the celebration had to end. With promises to each other to keep in touch, the group slowly dispersed. Many back to the airport. Lucky me, since I was down there, I got to spend some quality time with my Texas cousins, who are the reason I got involved with the 3-Day after we lost their mother Judy (my cousin) to breast cancer.

Now I am back. And more energized than ever. We have accomplished so much. There is still so much to do. The monster must be slain.

I hope you all know that I know that while it is my name on the wall at Komen headquarters, the honors belong to all of you who have walked, crewed and supported so many of us. Together we have gotten this far. I know we will not stop now.”

Thank you, Burt, for your vivid and poignant recollection of the honoring of our Lifetime Commitment Circle and for sharing it with the whole 3-Day community. Please join us in honoring and recognizing our Lifetime Commitment Circle members and all of our participants and crew members for their passion, dedication, and commitment to Susan G. Komen. We are proud to work alongside you in our fight to end breast cancer forever. Please visit the 3-Day Lifetime Commitment Circle replica wall while you are on-site at the 3-Day events in 2018.