Published on October 30, 2023
This post has been sponsored by Gilead Sciences as part of their sponsorship of the 2023 Prevent Cancer Gala.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a powerful annual reminder of the challenges and triumphs in the fight against breast cancer. We at Gilead and Kite Oncology were privileged to be the presenting sponsors of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s 29th Annual Gala on September 27, 2023, where the collective support of attendees and donors raised over $2 million for cancer prevention and early detection.
For more than 30 years, Gilead has pursued the impossible, working tirelessly to bring forward medicines for life-threatening illnesses like HIV, viral hepatitis and COVID-19. Now, Gilead and Kite Oncology are building on this legacy to break new ground in the treatment of cancer by delivering transformative medicines to bring more life to people with cancer. Our dedication to health equity is at the forefront of our mission, and we proudly stand alongside organizations like the Prevent Cancer Foundation, united in our vision of a world where cancer is preventable, detectable and beatable for all. We are committed to developing patient-centered solutions and working in concert with the patient and care provider community to advance policy solutions aimed at improving early detection, access and survival for all populations.
The critical role of early screening and diagnosis
The importance of early screening and diagnosis for breast cancer cannot be overstated. Black women face significant barriers throughout the breast cancer care continuum, and as a result, experience higher death rates from breast cancer than non-Hispanic white women.1 This statistic is most glaring with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Although anybody can be diagnosed with TNBC, it disproportionately impacts Black, Hispanic/Latina and young women.2
Of all breast cancer diagnoses each year, approximately 10-20% are triple-negative.3 Triple-negative breast cancers tend to spread faster than other breast cancers, and because they don’t have three of the most commonly targeted cancer receptors (hence the name triple-negative), there are fewer medicines that work against them.4
Black women are three times as likely to be diagnosed with TNBC than non-Hispanic white women.5 The majority of TNBC cases occur in younger women under the age of 50, particularly among Black women, who are also often diagnosed at later stages than white women.6 While this may be partly due to biological factors, the inequitable distribution of resources and social determinants of health such as economic stability, education and early access to screening and diagnosis also impact differences in health outcomes.2
In a recent study presented at a major conference on cancer health disparities, Black patients with a TNBC diagnosis were found to less likely have a first-time, annual screening mammogram and more likely to experience difficulty accessing genetic testing — creating barriers that could delay diagnosis and impact treatment decisions.
To address these disparities, Gilead developed the “Toward Health Equity for Black People Impacted by TNBC” grant program. In 2022, we awarded $5.7 million to 21 organizations focused on bridging the gaps in cancer care for Black people impacted by TNBC. Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, one of the inaugural grantees, provides access and appropriate care coordination through patient-centered interventions focused on Black people impacted by breast cancer in Mississippi and Louisiana. The Mary Bird Perkins team offer no-cost cancer screening through a mobile clinic in an effort to meet people where they are. The Prevent Cancer Foundation also recognized the important work being done by Mary Bird Perkins—in 2022, they funded Mary Bird Perkins as one of 10 community grantees dedicated to increasing cancer prevention and early detection in LGBTQ+ communities.
Additionally, Gilead is a proud supporter of “TNBC Can’t Wait,” a movement among highly impassioned leaders in the breast cancer community centrally focused on policy reform for women impacted by the disease. TNBC Can’t Wait events have been convened in cities across the U.S. and have served as a mechanism to unify communities on policy goals, build policymaker champions and ignite advocacy action. Most recently at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 52nd annual conference in September, a TNBC Can’t Wait panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Monique Gary, surgical oncologist and cancer program director at Grand View Health. Dr. Gary facilitated a conversation examining the importance of early detection and timely treatment initiation for TNBC and engaged policymakers on the importance of comprehensive patient navigation services to better support patients in their care journey.
Legislative policy can a be powerful lever for sustainable change to advance health equity, enabling solutions that address the systemic inequities people face accessing the care they need, such as earlier access to cancer screening for young, at-risk populations.
Gilead and Kite Oncology continue to innovate and address health equity
From anti-body drug conjugates and small molecules to cell therapy-based approaches, Gilead and Kite’s R&D programs and partnerships are creating possibilities for people with overlooked, underserved and difficult to treat cancers. But we recognize that innovation is only beneficial if patients who would benefit have access. It is imperative that we get patients the care they need, because early and targeted cancer screenings can lead to earlier access to care, and in turn, better outcomes for patients – including Black women at-risk of TNBC.
TNBC presents unique challenges, but through relentless scientific innovation and transformational community partnerships, we are hopeful that together, we can make strides against cancer. We are confident in our pursuit of delivering innovative therapies that offer new hope for patients and making the world a healthier place for all people.
1Yang XR, Chang-Claude J, Goode EL, et al. Associations of breast cancer risk factors with tumor subtypes: a pooled analysis from the Breast Cancer Association Consortium studies. J Natl Cancer Inst. 103(3):250-63, 2011
2Axelsen, K., Jayasuriya, R., Zacharko, C., & Karmo, M. (2021, October 22). Disparities in screening and diagnosis for triple negative breast cancer. Charles River Associates. https://media.crai.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/04132314/CRA-Gilead-Disparities-in-Screening-and-Diagnosis-TNBC.pdf
3Kumar P, Aggarwal R. An overview of triple-negative breast cancer. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2016;293(2):247-269.doi:10.1007/s00404-015-3859-y
4American Cancer Society, Triple-Negative Breast Cancer, 2019. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/understanding-abreast-cancer-diagnosis/types-of-breast-cancer/triple-negative.html
5Cho, B., Han, Y., Lian, M., Colditz, G. A., Weber, J. D., Ma, C., & Liu, Y. (2021). Evaluation of racial/ethnic differences in treatment and mortality among women with triple-negative breast cancer.
6Plasilova, M. L., Hayse, B., et al, Features of triple-negative breast cancer: Analysis of 38,813 cases from the national cancer database. Medicine, 2016, 95(35), e4614. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000004614