$1 million gift furthers study focused on reducing breast cancer disparities

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Rich Preyer and Marilyn Jacobs Preyer of Hillsborough, North Carolina, have donated $1 million to support the latest phase of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Carolina Breast Cancer Study, which is investigating how the causes, treatments and long-term outcomes of breast cancer differ between Black women and white women. This gift builds on the couple’s longstanding commitment to advancing breast cancer research and breaking down barriers to high-quality health care for everyone.

Researchers from UNC Lineberger and UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health launched the landmark Carolina Breast Cancer Study in 1993 to bring together their collective expertise in epidemiology and molecular biology to identify a wider range of breast cancer risk factors and to better understand how these risk factors contribute to disparities in breast cancer among Black women and white women.

As a breast cancer survivor, Jacobs Preyer said she always felt fortunate to have access to high-quality health care, and she wants to ensure everyone has the same opportunity.

“It always stayed with me how fortunate I was to have this access,” she said. “The translational aspect of this research is very powerful to me, and to see the partnership between the University and the community, town and state, is exciting; we can move the needle and have an impact on society.”

The Carolina Breast Cancer Study is internationally renowned for its innovative research exploring the biological and social determinants of health — from pathology, molecular markers and genetics on the cellular level to how people access health care, financial toxicities and quality of life following diagnosis. The next phase of the study — phase four — will utilize high-end computing to incorporate and analyze image data from histopathology and mammograms, enabling scientists to develop a more robust model of disparities and breast cancer outcomes. The researchers will also be focused on doubling the number of young women and Black women participating in the research.

“These statewide partnerships will help us recruit and contact women and collect more data,” said UNC Lineberger’s Melissa Troester, a professor of epidemiology at UNC Gillings and principal investigator for the Carolina Breast Cancer Study. “We have unique strengths at UNC in data science, and we’re going to leverage this for a more comprehensive, multidimensional understanding of breast cancer and health equity.”

The private funds will help researchers expand the study to include more participants and to lay the foundation to pursue external funding sources as the study progresses.

“Private philanthropy helps us get things going and gives us a leg up in securing additional scientific grant support. We couldn’t do this work without private partners,” Troester said.

“We are so grateful for philanthropic partners like Marilyn and Rich,” said Dr. Shelley Earp, UNC Lineberger director and Lineberger Professor of Cancer Research. “They recognize the importance of our work to explore and address the disparities in breast cancer care, treatment and survival outcomes. They are passionate about health inequities and are investing in us to analyze the problems and implement solutions.”

“I’m so grateful for the care I’ve received at UNC,” Jacobs Preyer said. “The idea that we have a comprehensive cancer center right here in our backyard, we have to take advantage of that world-class clinical and research asset.”

This gift counts toward the Campaign For Carolina, the University of North Carolina’s most ambitious fundraising campaign in history, launched in October 2017 with a goal to raise $4.25 billion by December 2022.

The pandemic poses more challenges for breast cancer patients

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Not only has there been a delay in some diagnoses, but a common type of reconstruction surgery has also had to be paused for a third time.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A return to traveling. A return to teaching.

For Jennifer Hall, a teacher from Liberty Township near Cincinnati, there’s now a sense of normalcy after the most challenging time of her life.

When asked to describe what it has been like to go through breast cancer treatment during a pandemic Hall responded with one word: “lonely.”

“When they put my port in my husband had to drop me off,” she explained. “And you’re all by yourself.”

Outside her home or the hospital, there was only one place she could go.

“I had a lot a lot, a lot of support on the front porch of people coming and sitting with me on the front porch,” Hall said. “But then as it got colder, my husband got a fire pit for us."

The pandemic made Hall’s journey to remission an isolating one. The pandemic has also posed more challenges for breast cancer patients.

“In the start of the pandemic, which was in March through the end of May, all screening mammograms were suspended,” said Dr. Natalie Jones, a surgical oncologist who specializes in breast cancer surgery at OhioHealth. “It has delayed some diagnoses.”

Dr. Jones is urging women to stay on top of routine care by getting mammograms and rescheduling any postponed or canceled appointments.

This #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth Jennifer Hall is sharing her story of going through treatment in the pandemic. She can sum it up in one word: “lonely.” The support she depended on, tonight at 5:45 #10TV pic.twitter.com/xd2U4XC1gR — Lindsey Mills (@LindseyMills7) October 5, 2021

She said due to the delta-driven increase in hospitalizations when it comes to reconstruction surgery, there’s now this:

“One of the options for women is autologous tissue flap-based reconstruction, we call them deep flaps. Those have been put on hold again now for the third time because it usually requires a 3-day hospitalization,” she explained.

However, Dr. Jones says there’s been one advancement.

“We’ve actually figured out through the pandemic how to do most of our mastectomy surgeries even with reconstruction as outpatient surgery,” she said. “So the majority of our patients do not spend the night in the hospital and go home the same day.”

For patients like Jennifer Hall, the pandemic has proved one thing: community support is powerful

She found that not only on her porch but through a blog written by the mom of one of her students.

“She was metastatic,” she said. “And her blog is called ‘Do Today Well.'”

An author who will never know the support she provides today.

Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis Has Breast Cancer

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Governor Ron DeSantis has announced that his wife Casey has breast cancer.

In a press release, the governor said his wife is the centerpiece of their family and has made an impact on the lives of countless Floridians through her initiatives as First Lady.

Mrs. DeSantis is 41-years-old. The couple has three young children.

Statement from Governor Ron DeSantis:

“I am saddened to report that Florida’s esteemed First Lady and my beloved wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer. As the mother of three young children, Casey is the centerpiece of our family and has made an impact on the lives of countless Floridians through her initiatives as First Lady. As she faces the most difficult test of her life, she will have not only have my unwavering support but the support of our entire family, as well as the prayers and well wishes from Floridians across our state. Casey is a true fighter, and she will never, never, never give up.”