Medical Collaboration to Fight Breast Cancer

Heroes Foundation’s Catherine Peachey Fund Gives Wings to Research

Sixteen years ago, Dr. George Sledge asked Connie Rufenbarger, Special Projects Manager of the Catherine Peachey Fund, for a big favor. As a medical oncologist and the director at IU Simon Cancer Center at the time, Sledge had seen firsthand the value of people — breast cancer researchers, physicians and patient advocates — coming together in person, on neutral ground, to share knowledge and ideas.

Sledge, who is now at Stanford University, asked Rufenbarger to spearhead an annual gathering to facilitate this kind of relationship building and cooperation. She and other Peachey Trustees took up the torch, organizing what became known as the Amelia Project for its first 12 years. Throughout its history, the Amelia Project has facilitated collaborations on numerous important projects that support breast cancer research.

From the 2016 Amelia Project: Drs. Hari Nakshatri and Kathy Miller along with our two keynote speakers, Dr. Rulla Tamimi, ScD, Associated Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Rolf Brekken, PhD, Effie Marie Cain Research Scholar, Department of Surgery, Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology, Pharmacology, University of Texas Southwestern.

“Cancer research can be isolated and highly competitive, so bringing together top researchers and physicians from institutions across Indiana is a special occurrence and one that we can be proud of as Hoosiers,” says Stephanie Lesher, a Heroes Foundation board member, long-time Catherine Peachey Fund volunteer and director of “Just Peachey” cookbook fundraising initiatives.

In 2016 the Catherine Peachey Fund, now a member of the Heroes Foundation family, announced a $75,000 grant to help bring back the annual Amelia Project, after a brief hiatus, and support it for five years. This important meeting is now being developed by the IU Simon Cancer Center, along with volunteers from the Catherine Peachey Fund. The 2017 meeting takes place on March 4 at Indiana University Kokomo.

Metastasis, the spread of cancer from its primary site, was a hot topic during last year’s meeting and is one of the major themes of this year’s conference. The keynote speaker for the Susan Jane Patrick Lectureship, named after Heroes Foundation Executive Director Cindy Todd’s mother, is Dr. Nikhil Wagle of the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute. Wagle is a medical oncologist and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Last year’s meeting included a new session and an exciting opportunity for junior researchers, who were given a platform to present research to senior researchers, physicians and patient advocates from around the state.

“It made me feel proud, as a Peachey Fund representative, to be able to give these young researchers, who are the future of cancer research, an opportunity to present research to their senior colleagues. It was exciting to watch senior researchers and physicians asking them questions and watching collaborations begin to form in front of my eyes,” Lesher says.

Consider our state’s assets for breast cancer research. The Komen Tissue Bank is the only repository in the world for normal breast tissue and matched serum, plasma and DNA, and makes these resources available to breast cancer researchers worldwide. The Amelia Project supports faculty recruitments to Indiana universities, and welcomes participation by representatives from medical research labs across the state, including Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame; all breast cancer researchers in the state of Indiana are welcome to attend.

The Amelia Project takes place Saturday, March 4, 2017. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at Indiana University Kokomo. For meeting details and agenda, click here. To support opportunities like the Amelia Project, please give to the Catherine Peachey Fund or the Heroes Foundation general fund. Visit our Donate page.

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