Breaking Through The Barriers to Breast Cancer Research Awareness


Foundation Has More Than $2M in Grant Funding Available This Year Breast cancer awareness initiatives are taking center stage this month, and hospitals and breast cancer centers are struggling with how to beef up clinical trial participation in a restrictive managed care environment. Public awareness of clinical trials - which provide vital links between basic research and improved patient care - is far from where it should be, concedes some of the top breast cancer advocates. Many major managed care organizations will not cover clinical trial participants, arguing that they are more costly with low outcome accountability. Instead, healthcare providers - especially academic hospitals - have to rely on breast cancer grants to pursue the discoveries that lead to prevention and improved healthcare treatment, according to Kim Calder, associate executive director of the National Action Plan on Breast Cancer (NAPBC). But what cripples clinical trial initiatives most are consumer awareness barriers to patient participation, according to the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations (NABCO). These barriers include lack of knowledge about clinical trials, not feeling a part of the research process, not having the means to network with other participants, feeling uncertain about reimbursement and fear of increased inconvenience (travel and frequency of participation). And, many physicians lack sufficient information about clinical trials to recommend for their patients. National Research Awareness Campaign Under Way To break through these barriers, NAPBC is has formed a Working Group Action Plan, chaired by Dr. Leslie Ford and Dr. Kay Dickersin, to address the gaps in breast cancer knowledge, research, policy and services. Some of the key initiatives under way include: Designing a national marketing campaign on breast cancer clinical trials targeting women, patients and primary care providers.Increasing participation in clinical trials by healthcare providers.Developing recommendations for a national policy on health insurance reimbursement for clinical trial participants that focus on diagnosis, prevention and treatment. To frame its marketing campaign, the Working Group is calling on the expertise of marketing and communications breast cancer experts throughout the country. And, for greater acceptance, the group is looking to partner with pharmaceutical and insurance companies and professional healthcare organizations. So far, initial discussions have taken place with Aetna Health Plans, Blue Cross-Blue Shield and the American Society of Oncologists. To find out more information about these initiatives, go to the NAPBC Web site (http://www.napbc.org). Pursuing Funding Online Until clinical trials become more widely accepted, breast cancer organizations are looking to the Web to boost awareness levels of clinical trials and promote grant opportunities. NAPBC, along with NABCO (http://www.nabco.org), the American Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.org), the National Cancer Institute (http://www.nci.nih.gov) and the Susan Komen Foundation (http://www.komen.org/grants) are customizing their Web sites to educate, inform and motivate action on breast cancer research. As the nation's largest private funder of breast cancer research, The Susan G. Komen Foundation funds studies that lead to clinical trials and would like to receive more applications for these studies, according to Elda Railey, the foundation's director of national grants. "We are especially interested in seeing research involving rural populations and hard-to-reach minority groups like African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans." In this year alone, the Komen Foundation has donated more than $1 million in research grants with another $2 million slated for the remainder of 1997. The grant-making approach is extremely streamlined so grants can be awarded in three to four months. Awards are given on a national and local level, and healthcare providers can pursue one or both of these avenues through Komen's Web site. On the national level, the Foundation is looking for proposals involving high risk populations (minorities) and early screening initiatives. (National research funding awards range from $50,000 to $200,000.) On the local level, proposals involving underserved populations (rural, indigent, ages 49 and over) are encouraged. (Local research funding ranges from $5,000 to $15,000) Since the turn-around time for grant decisions are so short, the criteria focus is on being brief and straightforward, according to Railey. Some of these criteria include: Four- to five-page proposals. Be very concise, highlighting the key research goals in first paragraph.Use innovative approaches to show the research will have a good chance of success or address a pressing need.Try not to duplicate breast cancer research efforts in your area. (Komen Foundation, 972/855-1600)

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