Science & Style:

The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation and Tadashi Shoji Collaborate to Support Breast Cancer Research


The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation (SWCRF) is proud and grateful to be the beneficiary of the Tadashi Shoji Pay It Forward campaign to raise funds for breast cancer research during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The initiative features a beautiful, limited-edition mermaid scarf designed by Tadashi as the centerpiece of the fundraising drive, which will donate 20 percent of total net proceeds from sales of the scarf and other apparel at www.tadashishoji.com and Tadashi Shoji stores in Las Vegas and South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa during October.

The Tadashi Shoji Pay It Forward campaign comes as statistics indicate we’re making progress in the effort to end breast cancer. Data from the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) SEER analysis of breast cancer trends between 1975 and 2011 reveal that rates for new breast cancer cases have been stable from 2002 to 2011 and death rates have fallen, on average, 1.9 percent each year from 2001 to 2010. The five-year relative survival rate grew to 90.6 percent in 2006 from 90.3 percent in 2002. Clearly, advocacy for awareness, early detection and intervention is making an impact.

There is still much work to be done, however. It is estimated that by year’s end, 232,670 new cases of breast cancer will have been reported in the U.S. The death toll is expected to be 40,000, representing 6.8 percent of all cancer-related deaths in the year. The SWCRF considers these figures unacceptable and is dedicated to funding cutting-edge science that leaves no stone unturned in the quest for a cure. Developing new treatments that spare women the debilitating effects of chemotherapy is also a high priority among the researchers working collaboratively within the SWCRF network.

Breast cancer has many subtypes and the SWCRF has focused much of its recent funding on Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), which is especially aggressive and targets women in their thirties, African-American women and Latinas. The SWCRF’s TNBC program is conducted by a dream team of investigators collaborating at two research facilities: The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami. The research is financed through a grant co-funded by SWCRF and the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, a New Jersey-based TNBC advocacy group. Each organization is contributing $50,000 yearly to the researchers over a three-year period, resulting in a $300,000 total grant.

The investigators include Arthur Zelent, Ph.D., of the University of Miami, and Mount Sinai researchers Ming-Ming Zhou, Ph.D., Eduardo Farias, Ph.D., and SWCRF founder and CEO Samuel Waxman, M.D.

“Breast cancer is not just a women’s disease,” says Dr. Waxman, “Entire families are affected by the presence of this disease, which has lasting ramifications for survivors and their loved ones. The SWCRF is dedicated to applying combination therapy in epigenetic research to find a cure and develop alternative therapies.”

In TNBC, estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor (HER2)—receptors known to fuel most breast cancers --- are not over expressed. While most treatments today are aimed at these receptor cancers, the SWCRF scientists are working to reprogram nonfunctioning genes in TNBC to make them more responsive to hormonal therapy and reduce their ability to metastasize.

Metastasis – the spreading of cancer from one organ to another – is also being investigated by SWCRF-funded researcher Robert A. Weinberg, Ph.D., at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Boston. Dr. Weinberg’s work targets a better understanding of the mechanisms that allow the formation of cancer stem cells, which are allied with cells that can invade and metastasize to distant organs, seeding the secondary tumors responsible for 90 percent of cancer deaths.

These cancer stem cells are more resistant to chemotherapy than the bulk of the cancer cells within carcinomas. As a result, tumors may shrink considerably yet leave behind residues of therapy-resistant cells that produce new tumors. For these reasons, eliminating cancer stem cells is critical to developing therapies that yield durable, long-term results.

From investigating how cancer spreads to developing genetic strategies to reverse the behavior of breast cancer cells, SWCRF scientists continue to make strides against this complex disease with the goal of someday finding a cure.