Baylor College of Medicine News

Baylor College of Medicine receives $350K in Avon grants for breast cancer care, research

Researchers and physicians from Baylor College of Medicine have received $350,000 in grants from the Avon Foundation for Women to support breast cancer care in the underserved community and to further research into breast cancer that has spread to the brain.

The grants were presented at the closing ceremonies of the 6th annual Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Houston Sunday, a two-day, 39.3 mile walk that brings together more than 1,000 breast cancer patients, survivors and their friends and families to raise money for breast cancer.

The Houston walk raised a total of $2.1 million.

Avon Foundation Safety Net Hospital Grant

The projects funded include a $200,000 Avon Foundation Safety Net Hospital grant to Dr. Mothaffar Rimawi, medical director of the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at BCM, and colleagues to provide care at the Harris Health System’s Smith Clinic.

Through BCM’s strong partnership with the Harris Health System, BCM doctors provide all medical care at the health system’s Smith Clinic and Ben Taub Hospital. In addition to seeing patients at the Baylor Clinic, Rimawi and his team see patients at the Smith Clinic's breast center.

"We are very excited about this grant and will continue to put these funds to a good use. With this grant, Avon is continuing its support to our efforts against breast cancer, and its commitment to our community,” said Rimawi. "The unique partnership between BCM, Harris Health System and community-minded organizations like Avon is bearing its fruits for yet another year."

Other funding support of the Smith Clinic breast center includes the Lester and Sue Smith Foundation, Houston Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Pink Ribbons Project.

Avon Foundation Research program grant

The projects also include a $150,000 Avon Foundation Research program grant to Dr. Dario Marchetti, professor of pathology at BCM, director of the CTC (circulating tumor cell) Core Facility at BCM and a member of the NCI-designated Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center at BCM, to advance research looking at how certain breast cancer cells spread from the breast to the brain - one of the most fatal aspects of breast cancer.

With the grant, Marchetti and his team will further study circulating tumor cells or CTC and their ability to metastasize or spread.

"CTCs have been touted as exciting sources of diagnostic information, where the number of CTCs may correlate with disease progression or treatment success," said Marchetti. "However, little is known about the biology and biomarker properties of these cells and why they are in the bloodstream, mostly because technology has prevented their long-term culture and analysis outside the body."

Official Medical Sponsor

For the sixth year in a row, BCM served as the official medical sponsor for the Avon Walk and provided care to the walkers. Dr. Julie Nangia, assistant professor in the Smith Breast Center, served as the medical director.

"This was an amazing event and I am very proud to have been a part of it," said Nangia. "The walkers raised at least $1800, then walked a marathon, camped overnight and woke up the next morning to walk another half marathon. Each year I’ve been involved with the Avon Walk I see so many kind acts and stories of dedication that inspire me to do more."

The money raised from the Houston Avon Walk goes to support patient care and research at organizations across the local community.

Nangia also acknowledged the many staff members and volunteers who made this event possible.

She led a team of more than 50 medical volunteers. During the 39.3 mile walk, the team saw a variety of health conditions from blisters (majority of the issues) to heat stroke, sprains/strains and allergic reactions.