The study will involve about 20 sites in the United
States and Canada,
and will look at a new drug that could potentially be used to treat certain
types of breast cancer. Dr. Jame Abraham is leading the study.
“This is a new medicine recently approved for stage four,
heavily treated patients with breast cancer,” Abraham explains, “and it’s found
to be heavily effective in that setting. So now we are trying to move that to
look at the efficacy of this drug in patients with early-stage breast cancer.”
The study is run through a large clinical trial network that
is one of the largest breast cancer research organizations in the world, the
National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project. Abraham expects the study
to be complete in 12 to 18 months. He says the cancer center at WVU has also
been working for the past two years to create a network within the state.
“The cancer center is leading an effort to develop a
clinical trial network throughout the state. Our goal, what we really want to
do is make sure that the same new treatment is available in every corner of the
state so that the patient from Bluefield
or Beckley, they don’t have to
travel to Morgantown to get the
Abraham says he hopes by working with oncologists and
clinical trial specialists throughout West Virginia
that this new drug will be available to many of the roughly 1500 women who are
diagnosed with breast cancer each year. He says the prevalence of the cancer in
the state is similar to prevalence nation-wide, but that in some counties the
incidence of mortality is higher.
“That’s due to lack of proper screening, or lack of access
to healthcare, or sometimes even lack of awareness. So breast cancer is a major
problem in the state of West Virginia.”
Abraham says about 300 women in the state die each year from
the disease and that only 10 percent of people with breast cancer are
He says there is an overwhelming need for better access to
treatment in rural areas and that’s where Bonnie's Bus roles into the picture.
The bus houses a mammography unit and has a mission to
provide breast cancer screening services to any and all women in West
Virginia, regardless of medical insurance coverage,
and especially to those in rural parts of the state with limited or no access
It was named in honor of Bonnie Wells Wilson, mother of Jo
Statler, who succumbed to breast cancer in a remote area of the state with no
access to screening mammography.
“Bonnie’s Bus is an excellent example of how we are taking
the technology to the people. So that they are able to get access, it’s right
there and educating women about the importance of early detection and then
Abraham says that while many times people develop breast
cancer because of a lack of resources, he says fear can play a large role, too.
“It’s very unfortunate to see a woman come in with a very
large mass and that can be due to many different things. Sometimes it can be
due to a fear of medicine and a fear of cancer. So it’s extremely important,
when they have something of concern, to address that early on and to seek care.
Early stage breast cancer can be cured.”
Abraham says, depending on personal risk factors, self
breast examinations should begin as early as the mid-twenties, and regular
mammograms should be scheduled when a woman reaches the age of forty.
He says only 5 to 10
percent of breast cancers are due to abnormal genes.
“Ninety percent of cases are due to multiple factors including
environmental, diet play a huge role, estrogen level in the woman plays a huge
role. So for our state the key thing is diet, and if I can say, obesity—that’s
the major player in breast cancer.”
Abraham points out that in the Western world, poor diet and
obesity is replacing tobacco as the number one cause of many of the most
prevalent cancers, including breast cancer.
He says it falls on individuals to make healthy dietary decisions, on healthcare providers
to help educate individuals about nutritional hazards, and that the problem is
perhaps large enough to validate policy makers to take action.
“I’m really impressed by mayor Bloomberg’s effort in the
city of New York. I think he’s
hitting this head-on. The leaders and policy makers have a huge impact on how
things happen so I really admire the way he’s tackling the issue of diet.”
Abraham is referring to Bloomberg’s recent vanquishing of
the sale single soda portions larger than 16 ounces.
“A mayor in a city—if he can make such an impact I think our
state government or on the federal, state, or city level—we should be
implementing similar policies in controlling high-fat diets, other drinks which
can cause obesity, because I think as a society I think we should make that