Before the Internet, patients had few resources to learn about their disease, so they relied almost exclusively on their physicians. Hail’s doctor recommended a mastectomy. She’s since learned a lumpectomy would’ve been just as effective. The experience made Hail acutely aware of the lack of available information and fueled her mission to educate women about breast cancer and early detection.
With help from her husband and family, she founded the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc. In 2000, it made its first gift: $10,000 to fund breast cancer research at MD Anderson.
Fuel to end cancer
The foundation allocates the majority of its support to breast cancer research, including the Breast and Ovarian Cancers Moon Shot.
“The Moon Shots Program is innovative, targeted and specific,” Hail says. “I love the whole approach of what they’re doing because they’ve taken things that were on the verge of success and pushed them over the top.”
Mien-Chie Hung, Ph.D., a moon shots leader and chair of Molecular and Cellular Oncology, uses the funding to conduct promising research that doesn’t yet have the track record required by government funding agencies.
“Through the foundation’s funding, my group has discovered biomarkers that can predict resistance to anti-cancer drugs,” says Hung. “Many of the biomarkers have great potential to help breast cancer patients, but without preliminary results, it would’ve been difficult to obtain government funding.”
The foundation also provided the seed money for MD Anderson’s Project VALET (Providing Valuable Area Life-Saving Exams in Town) in 2008. (See story Outreach delivers screening and hope to communities in need) The project brings MD Anderson’s mobile mammography van to community clinics where underserved women receive free mammograms and early detection education. Project VALET is part of the foundation’s National Mammography Program, which has provided more than 350,000 mammograms to underserved women across all 50 states.
Breast cancer survivor’s dream is a worldwide reality
Thanks to efforts that educate women about the importance of early detection, breast cancer survival rates in the U.S. are at 90%. However, survival rates in parts of Asia, Africa and Europe are decreasing. Hail and MD Anderson saw a critical need to expand globally, and partnered with the institution’s Global Academic Programs; Worldwide Innovative Networking in Personalized Cancer Medicine, a global collaboration of cancer care and research organizations headquartered in Paris; and Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon in Africa. These partnerships have resulted in:
- The WINTHER Trial: the first clinical trial to offer biologically guided therapy for 100% of participants. The trial currently is underway at MD Anderson and three institutions in France, Spain and Israel
- 13 additions to MD Anderson’s Sister Institution Network, a collaboration of 29 institutes from 22 countries conducting research and education to lessen the world’s cancer burden
- Exchange visits that bring Zambian doctors to Houston to study MD Anderson’s state-of-the-art cancer treatment, and send MD Anderson doctors to Zambia to share expertise with colleagues on the ground
Hail believes when you dream big, nothing can stop you.
“There are organizations larger than ours, but none with a greater vision to send light around the world. The message is working, but we have to continue until the survival rate is 100%, or the disease is cured.”