Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among American women, and is expected to claim nearly 45,000 lives in the US during 2021 alone. Of those at risk of developing breast cancer, African American people are unequally and uniquely affected. To help address this critical health inequality, AstraZeneca is proud to partner with patient advocacy organization Breastcancer.org to help reach and educate larger the breast cancer community, especially women and men in communities more heavily impacted by the disease.
We are joined by Hope Wohl, Chief Executive of Breastcancer.org, who shares her perspective and mission with us this Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Hope Wohl Chief Executive of Breastcancer.org
Since it was founded more than 20 years ago, Breastcancer.org has been committed to reaching people wherever they are – no matter their diagnosis or personal situation – so they have the opportunity to get the best care possible. For far too long, we have seen how racial and socio-economic disparities in cancer care can cost people their lives. We need to do more. Racism is a public health crisis that requires dedicated resources. That’s why we are deepening our education and support initiatives to help eliminate barriers to health equity, and to provide the information patients need to self-advocate and play an active role in their care.
Our goal is to use the power of Breastcancer.org’s digital platform – reaching a wide, diverse audience around the world with a trusted voice – to raise the volume on conversations about clinical trials with Black and other marginalized communities. We do so with a sense of urgency knowing although the breast cancer incidence rates for Black women are about the same as White women, Black women are dying at a 40% higher rate than White women. Additionally, only 3% of clinical trial participants leading to FDA approval of cancer drugs between 2008 and 2018 were Black. The data are staggering. We know we must make a meaningful change to a dire situation.
Our first step was to partner with Ricki Fairley. Ricki is a highly regarded patient advocate for Black women and triple negative disease, someone we have known and admired for years. Last year Ricki turned her passion and personal experience into the creation of TOUCH, the Black Breast Cancer Alliance. TOUCH focuses on collaborative efforts toward the goal of eradicating Black breast cancer.
Together with TOUCH, Ciitizen, Susan G. Komen, Morehouse School of Medicine and the Center for Health Innovation, we have conducted research, using qualitative and quantitative methods, to more deeply understand the historic and nuanced barriers to clinical trial participation in the Black community. We are excited to share the results of our research with the world and begin outreach in the coming months.
Our grassroots movement to create change from within the Black community starts with awareness and education. By providing reliable medical information in ways that are relevant, accessible and actionable, Breastcancer.org and our advocacy partners play a critical role in empowering people. With research, we are breaking down the barriers to participation that are causing Black women to die unnecessarily; with awareness and education, we will build up the clarity and confidence to take an empowered role in advocating for health. Part of the empowerment comes from giving people agency over their health data. The #Blackdatamatters campaign aims to connect people to their full health records, so they control how and when their data is used for research, including opportunities for clinical trial matching and participation.
If we are to achieve health equity, we have to continue to democratize health information and make it easily accessible, actionable and trustworthy for all people everywhere, particularly those who have been marginalized, mistreated or left out of the healthcare system. It requires all of us working together to design for better representation in research and clinical trials. We have to do the hard work to see change through.
Breastcancer.org and our partners are both optimistic and determined that our innovative, inclusive and enduring collaboration is the first step in the movement to connect the Black breast cancer community to trustworthy and actionable information about clinical trial participation. We are committed to helping a generation of strong Black women and men have control over their health data so they can make the best choices for their own lives.
Chief Executive, Breastcancer.org