Dr. Donna J. Twist, PhD, VP Development/Executive Director and Sally Cascella, RN, Senior Nurse Educator

The Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center

Pathways to Screening

Awarded $25,000

About this Project:  

The Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center’s Pathways to Screening helps medically underserved women overcome barriers to breast cancer screening by navigating women through the entire appointment process, from the community-based outreach program or health clinic where they first make their appointment to the appointment itself and any follow up services.  A bilingual patient navigator will follow women, confirming appointments, answering questions and addressing barriers to screening, such as transportation, financial and personal issues, and will be available the day of the appointment when women meet with a Nurse Navigator.

The program overcomes some of the persistent barriers to navigation through the provision of the following services:

  • Personal assistance and strategic case management from community to clinic to women who need help accessing health services.  Women are navigated throughout the entire process, including the financial aspects of their care.
  • Continuity of care and coordination of services.
  • Financial assistance for clinical breast exams, mammograms and ultrasounds
  • Outreach designed to reach women who are high risk, who may never have had a mammogram or do not routinely get breast screening
  • A center of reference for questions and management of care.
  • Streamlined and timely access to advanced services.

The study will compare rates of compliance of women who come through the Pathways to Screening program vs. those without the same level of navigation.  The study will take place in Greater Bridgeport, a low income community with breast cancer mortality and incidence rates among the highest in the state; screening rates are also low.

Dr. Susan Tannenbaum, MD

University of Connecticut Health Center

A Comprehensive Study to Identify Cause of Fatigue in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Breast Irradiation

Awarded $50,000

About this Project:  

Women undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer often experience fatigue.  Although well-recognized as a side-effect of radiation treatment, the reasons why fatigue develops are unclear.  Our study aims to identify the potential causes of radiation-induced fatigue.  We will achieve this by creating a thorough psychological profile for each participant in our study.  We will correlate any changes in this profile with several clinical and laboratory measures of tissue damage.  Understanding the underlying mechanism for the development of radiation-fatigue will also bring us closer to identifying interventions to overcome this complication.

Dr. Helen Swede, PhD

University of Connecticut Health Center

Sickle Cell Trait and Survival Disparity in Breast Cancer

Awarded $50,000

About this Project:  

It has been long-recognized that, in Connecticut and nationally, African-American women with breast cancer are much more likely to die from their disease compared to women of European ancestry.  About 8.3% (2.5 million) of African-Americans are estimated to be Sickle Cell Trait (SCT) carriers compared to 0.05% of whites, which prompts the question if sickling-related events among cancer patients might explain, in part, sustained survival disparities.  Certain physiological stressors can trigger sickling of red blood cells (RBCs) in SCT and sickle cell disease (SCD).  Several recent case reports described sickling-related adverse events in cancer patients undergoing the rigors of chemotherapy (n=10 SCD, n=2 SCT).  As no systematic studies have appeared in the literature to date, our primary aim is to construct the first investigation of multiple breast cancer cases into a single analysis derived from large national databases.  Our second aim is to draft a grant proposal to the National Cancer Institute or American Cancer Society to study the prognostic role SCT in breast cancer patients through partnerships with large-scale existing studies.  Our third aim is to examine the response of RBCs, extracted from persons with SCT or SCD, to the administration of chemo-therapeutic agents used in breast cancer treatment.  Future application of our findings could include genetic screening of newly diagnosed cancer patients given that most African-Americans are unaware of their SCT status.

Betsy Rice, RN-BC, CBCN, Oncology Operations Manager

St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation - Complimentary Creative Arts Therapy

Awarded $25,000

About this Project:  

St. Vincent’s Medical Center will conduct a study to determine the impact of the implementation of a Complementary Creative Arts Therapy Program for Breast Cancer patients and their families.

Dr. Shelley A. Phelan, PhD

Fairfield University: Dr. Shelley A. Phelan, PhD

The Role of Peroxiredoxin Proteins in Breast Cancer Cell Survival

Awarded $40,000

Dr. Patricia DeFusco, MD

Hartford Hospital: Dr. Patricia DeFusco, MD

Oncotype Dx (R) Breast Cancer Assay in Sub-centimeter Tumors-Correlation with Clinico-Pathological Parameters and Impact on Treatment Decisions 

Awarded $5,000

Vickie Han

Chatham Health District: Vickie Han

B-CAP (Breast Cancer Awareness Program)

Awarded $20,000

About this Project:  

The Chatham Health District in collaboration with the Breast Cancer Awareness Program (B-CAP) will provide community outreach in the towns of Colchester, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Hebron, Marlborough, and Portland Connecticut.  The individuals reached through this program will receive face to face education on breast cancer and become aware of the importance of breast screenings and recommended follow-up testing and care.  The program will assist women with barriers to access care, if cost is a barrier, partner community resources will be accessed such as Middletown Connecticut Breast & Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, Access Health CT (for health insurance) and Middlesex Hospital.

Dr. Anees Chagpar

Yale School of Medicine: Dr. Anees Chagpar, MD, Associate Professor; Director, The Breast Center Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven Hospital

Understanding Intratumoral Heterogeneity in Breast Cancer

Awarded $50,000

About this Project:  

It has long been known that breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease – that no two patients have identical tumors.  What is coming more to light is the fact that even within a single patient’s tumor, heterogeneity exists – and this heterogeneity may have profound implications in terms of their treatment.  In general, the diagnosis of breast cancer is made on a small biopsy, and immunohistochemical stains for estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and her-2-neu guide treatment with agents targeted to these markers.  Differences in these receptors based on where the initial biopsy was taken may then affect treatment decisions, potentially depriving some patients of beneficial therapies.  Whether such intratumoral heterogeneity is greater in the triple negative population remains to be elucidated.  We will perform whole exome sequencing of biopsies obtained from different anatomic regions of the same cancer in order to determine the degree of intratumoral heterogeneity in Stage II – III breast cancer and to correlate the degree of intratumoral heterogeneity with clinical phenotype.

Katherine Clements

Cancer Center at MidState Medical Center: Katherine Clements, RN, OCN, CBCN

Integrative Medicine Program and Caregiver Services

Awarded $6,500

Bethany Carr

The Hospital of Central Connecticut: Bethany Carr, APRN-BC, MSN, CBPN-IC

Breast Cancer Risk Counseling Program

Awarded $25,000

About this Project:  

Although most breast cancers occur in women who do not have a strong family history of the disease, an estimated 5 – 10% are linked to a genetic predisposition for the disease.  Researchers have identified certain genes that, when changed or mutated, increase a woman’s breast cancer risk.  Women who have a BRCA gene mutation have up to an 80% lifetime risk of breast cancer, and a 15 to 45% lifetime risk of ovarian cancer.  The main purpose of the Hospital of Central CT’s Increased Risk Breast Cancer Program is to educate women about their risk for cancer by encouraging lifestyle modification and/or genetic testing.  This will reduce risk and possibly prevent the disease.  Our Breast Health Nurse Navigator will serve as the program facilitator and conduct a brief cancer risk assessment to evaluate risk factors, help women understand how various factors influence their risk, and provide information on appropriate steps to reduce the risk.  The nurse will help the patient complete a thorough assessment using software developed to assist in the identification of individuals at high risk of developing breast cancer and other cancers.  This system is used to collect family history and personal risk factors for developing breast cancer.  It will assist the nurse in determining the level of risk for developing breast cancer.  Based on the patient’s history and the risk level, the nurse will provide instruction on breast self-exams and education on other preventative measures and lifestyle changes.  A referring physician will receive information about the patient’s mammogram results, medical management recommendations, and any other details related to a patient’s high risk.  A Surveillance Plan will be developed based on risk, which will be shared with the patient and his/her primary care physician.