Last week, I had the pleasure of joining Dr. Susan Love on stage at the Partnering for Cures Conference in New York. Our message was one of collaboration and innovation, urging leaders from across the medical community to work together in the fight against breast cancer. We may have unique missions, but we share the same goal – to end this terrible disease.
Collaboration and partnership are cornerstones of our work at Susan G. Komen. Since our earliest days, we’ve partnered with the very best community health organizations and research institutions. Today, we work in partnership with almost 2,000 organizations every year. We know that lives can be saved when people work together toward a common goal.
A prime example of partnership in action is the Pink-Ribbon Red-Ribbon initiative, which Komen, along with PEPFAR, UNAIDS and the George W. Bush Institute, launched in 2011. The program builds on existing healthcare platforms to provide better access to cancer care in sub-Saharan Africa, where 100,000 women lose their lives to breast and cervical cancers each year.
Just last month Susan G. Komen was pleased to announce two groundbreaking collaborations. Working with Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation and the Young Survival Coalition, we announced the Health of Women [HOW] Study on September 30. And in October, on National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day, our three organizations joined a dozen others to form the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance.
Dr. Love and I have both faced cancer – breast cancer for me, leukemia for Dr. Love. Yesterday, our panel was appropriately titled “(Im)patient Cures.” Both Dr. Love and I are undeniably impatient as we press on for the day when we retire this terrible disease to the history books.
Last Thursday would have been my sister Suzy’s 70th birthday. The day led me to reflect on where we are in this battle, and the distance we have yet to go. We have come a long way since Suzy’s breast cancer diagnosis. Early detection methods, treatment, and knowledge about this disease have greatly improved; death rates have declined markedly in the U.S. in the last 20 years, and five-year survival rates for early stage disease have climbed dramatically. I’m proud that Susan G. Komen has invested millions into research on prevention, metastasis, health disparities, vaccines and more.
Still, we have further to go. This year alone, 40,000 women and men will die of breast cancer in the U.S., and there is still so much to learn about this complex and frustrating disease.
It’s been said that if two people on the same job agree all the time, then one is irrelevant. But if they disagree all the time, both are irrelevant. Within the medical community we share the same goal: to end breast cancer. Now is the time to put differences aside and work together. That’s why the collaborations we announced this month are so important and – I hope – just the first of many more to come.