At Georgetown Lombardi, Breast Cancer Advocates Take Their Place at the Research Bench

PHILADELPHIA (April 20, 2015)  — Breast cancer researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center have found a secret ingredient for landing highly competitive research grants: non-researchers. These advocates discussed their work as part of the Scientist ↔ Survivor Program April 20 at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2015 in Philadelphia.

Washington, DC’s only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center established the Georgetown Lombardi Breast Cancer Patient Advocacy Committee (GLBCPAC) in 2011, a group of breast cancer advocates supporting its basic science, translational and clinical research.

Integration of patient advocacy in biomedical research grant proposals represents a paradigm shift for researchers seeking funding—one that is highly successful.

“Encouraging researchers, basic or clinical, to work with advocates is the right step to help in bridging the gap between cancer research and the community it is intended to directly impact,” says Ayesha N. Shajahan-Haq, PhD, an assistant professor at Georgetown Lombardi and the group’s scientific advisor. “Having the right perspective is helpful in assembling the right idea for the specific aim of a grant or the discussion section of a manuscript, which can have the highest impact on the patient community.”

For these reasons, Shajahan-Haq says the committee is an integral and respected part of the breast cancer research community at Georgetown Lombardi.

GLBCPAC’s mission is to ensure research is patient-centered, innovative, evidence-based, and accessible. The committee is racially and ethnically diverse, ranging from high-risk women to short- and long-term survivors to those with recurrent disease.

Several members are trained by the National Breast Cancer Coalition's scientific education program, Project LEAD, or participate in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Advocates in Science Program.

The group meets monthly with Georgetown Lombardi researchers, using their education and experiences to comment on pending grant submissions early in the proposal process. The GLBCPAC has successfully influenced research decisions, study designs, recruitment strategies and patient education.                                                                                                               

The integrated and early approach of GLBCPAC has aided researchers who have been awarded a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute grant, a U.S. Department of Defense Idea Expansion Award, and a prestigious U01 award from the National Institutes of Health.

In addition to providing feedback on grants, the group explores advocacy training opportunities, outlines patient support initiatives, reviews the latest scholarly publications and make plans to attend upcoming scientific conferences and community awareness events. It also gets updates from breast cancer researchers following major cancer meetings.

Robert Clarke, PhD, DSc, co-director of the breast cancer program at Georgetown Lombardi and dean for research at Georgetown University Medical Center, says the committee’s contributions have been invaluable.

“Working closely with this committed, passionate group, we have seen the power of patient advocates who are so well-versed in the science,” he says.

GLBCPAC members include Jamie N. Holloway, Wanda Lucas, Jeannine Salamone, Shelley Brundage, Susan Winarsky, Margery London, Naomi Greenwood, Sherri Stahl, Nora Carbine, Rosa Goyes, Kara-Grace Leventhal, and Debbie and Charles Chisolm.

About Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach, and the training of cancer specialists of the future. Georgetown Lombardi is one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as designated by the National Cancer Institute, and the only one in the Washington, DC, area. For more information, go to http://lombardi.georgetown.edu.

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person." The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization, which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.

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