Avon Foundation Partnership Provides SF Breast Cancer Patient Services

June 21, 2002
News Office: Eve Harris / UCSF (415) 885-7277

Children whose mothers have breast cancer can develop problems like nightmares and falling grades. In July, thanks to a grant from the Avon Foundation, some of them will participate in a new support group for Spanish-speaking children of patients at the San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center (SFGHMC) Breast Clinic.

The 10-year old SFGHMC Breast Clinic, supported by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, SFGHMC, UCSF Medical Center and private donors, is part of a system of breast care for women in San Francisco. Among the system's private donors is the Avon Foundation, which provides funds raised by the many programs of the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade. The foundation has awarded $12.2 million to date to a collaboration between SFGHMC and UCSF Medical Center for medical research on breast cancer and for clinical care, education and support services to breast cancer patients and their families. The hub for clinical care will be the new Avon Foundation Comprehensive Breast Center at SFGHMC. The $3.6 million center will permit SFGHMC to offer more complex biopsy tests for breast cancer, and will include two new digital mammography machines. Construction of the modular building will begin in January 2003 with a planned May 2003 opening.

Currently 4,800 women are screened each year for breast cancer at SFGHMC; the new breast center will be able to perform twice that number of mammograms. "Our capacity to provide appropriate services to women with or at risk of breast cancer is soaring," said Gene Marie O'Connell, executive administrator of SFGHMC. "With the construction here of the Avon Foundation Comprehensive Breast Center, and improved patient outreach that includes access to clinical trials, the Avon Foundation is helping us make the best possible care available to medically underserved women."

"San Francisco is one of the `flagships' among the 10 comprehensive cancer centers currently funded by the Avon Foundation, " said Kathleen Walas, president of the Avon Foundation. "The funds we raise through the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade are dedicated to providing access to care for all women and finding a cure for breast cancer. We are proud to help link together SFGHMC as it delivers breast cancer care and UCSF Medical Center as is continues its research to eradicate the disease," Walas said.

As part of its total gift, Avon Foundation has awarded roughly $4 million to date in support of research approaches at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center for preventing, detecting and treating breast cancer. "In the past year, we've made significant progress in our understanding of the genetic and biological changes that occur when normal cells become cancerous," said Frank McCormick, director of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. "Those findings have helped suggest several novel therapeutic and preventive agents that we continue to investigate."

Involving SFGHMC Breast Clinic patients in UCSF Medical Center clinical research is another key element in the collaboration, McCormick said. A trial of acupressure to relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea is currently underway. And, since the addition of Avon Foundation funding, 60 SFGHMC patients have consented to banking tissue samples. Their consent helps ensure that UCSF scientists can draw on a bank of diverse tissue types that more accurately represents the ethnic diversity of breast cancer patients.

The UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is an interdisciplinary initiative that combines basic cancer science, clinical research, epidemiology/cancer control and patient care programs.

SFGHMC serves as the primary health care facility for San Francisco's underserved and uninsured families, providing medical and psychiatric acute care services, emergency services, skilled nursing services, primary care, specialty outpatient and substance abuse services. UCSF Medical Center is affiliated with SFGHMC and has provided the hospital's medical staff since 1885.

The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade was launched in the U.S. in 1993 by Avon Products, Inc. By 2001, $165 million had been raised in this country alone through programs such as the sale of unique "pink ribbon" products and the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Days. Crusade funds are awarded by the Avon Foundation for medical research, clinical care, support services, education and early detection. Avon also supports breast cancer programs in more than 45 countries and is committed to raising a total of $250 million by the end of 2002 to fight breast cancer.

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