On September 3, A Glimmer of Hope Foundation, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation are hosting the third annual Race to Beat Women’s Cancers at North Park.
“For our first race, we had more than 1,000 participants, and last year, in addition to about 1,000 racers signing up, we had horrific rain,” said Diana Napper, Founder of A Glimmer of Hope Foundation. “This year, we’re hoping for even more participants and better weather.” The first race raised $179,000 and although the second race was canceled due to the inclement weather, it raised $114,000.
In 1994, Napper founded A Glimmer of Hope Foundation to honor the wishes of her best friend, Carol Jo Weiss Friedman, who lost her battle with the disease in 1990. The grass-roots effort, 501c3 nonprofit organization is committed to battling breast cancer through cancer research and programs, and most importantly, clinical trial studies in premenopausal breast cancer, as breast cancer in younger women tends to be more aggressive.
Through various fundraising events supported by businesses, sports organizations, and individuals, Diana and A Glimmer of Hope Foundation have raised more than $3 million, which has been donated to Allegheny Health Network, Magee-Womens Research Institute, the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, and Allegheny General Hospital.
“One hundred percent of the money raised through Glimmer of Hope's efforts for the RTBWC goes to Metastatic Breast Cancer Research, and all of the dollars stay right here in the Pittsburgh region,” said Napper. Metastatic Breast Cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer.
In 2017, A Glimmer of Hope Foundation funded Contrast Enhanced Mammography (CEM) technology for the UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital Breast Imaging program. CEM is a technology in which a contrast agent, like that used in CAT Scan (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), is given to a patient for mammographic imaging to identify lesions and possible cancers.
In 2022, A Glimmer of Hope Foundation purchased a new device for the department. This CEM technology is now available in combination with breast biopsy procedures. The CEM biopsy improves the patient experience in that it is more comfortable, faster, doesn’t have the noise of an MRI and removes the concern of claustrophobia. Using CEM biopsy for either CEM or MRI identified lesions unburdens MRI units and allows women to have needed diagnostic and screening MRIs in a timelier fashion.
With the generous support of A Glimmer of Hope Foundation, Magee-Womens Research Institute and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center are now examining a new and novel technology for monitoring and understanding breast cancer from a blood draw, also known as a ‘liquid biopsy’. This new study is setting protocol in research that will now impact the entire United States. Furthermore, this will allow real-time monitoring of the size and severity of breast cancer tumors and their response to therapy.
“Support from Glimmer of Hope has been instrumental in our research of liquid biopsies, a new and non-invasive alternative to diagnosing cancer,” said Adrian Lee, PhD, director of the Institute of Precision Medicine, a joint effort by UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh. “Our hope is that this will revolutionize how we diagnose, treat and monitor breast cancer. Most importantly, we hope this will lead to improved outcomes for breast cancer patients.”
Ginger Pillar, a nurse who was diagnosed with breast cancer, knows the importance of breast cancer research as six out of the 12 women from her mother’s generation on down were diagnosed with the disease. All but one were under the age of 50. When she was diagnosed, she decided to seek treatment at UPMC. “As a nurse, I have always researched and gathered information pertaining to health issues and disease processes. Upon learning I had breast cancer, that’s exactly what I did, which led me to UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital,” said Pillar.
“We all had genetic testing done,” said Pillar, “but they have not found any of the known genetic mutations in our family for breast cancer. This is one reason why research is so important; there's so many other genetic markers to still be discovered and ways to better treat and hopefully one day cure this disease.”
Pillar has become an advocate for breast cancer patients and is involved with A Glimmer of Hope Foundation. “They are focused on keeping funds here in Pittsburgh and making sure funds are going to pertinent research and support of breast cancer patients, especially those with metastatic disease who need it the most,” said Pillar.
While these new technologies and research are exciting, sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference in a patient’s battle with breast cancer. “Through our various fundraising efforts by sponsors and supporters, we have been able to provide breast cancer screenings to women under 40 who have no insurance coverage at no charge,” said Napper. Not only that but A Glimmer of Hope provides acupuncture treatments, yoga and massage therapy to patients.
The response to this has been overwhelmingly positive as patients have commented:
“I have had a migraine for months and after my first acupuncture appointment, I have not gotten one again.”
“The neuropathy has lessened, and I no longer feel like my hands are weak. I am not dropping things and I can cook again.”
“Weekly acupuncture has gotten my stomach troubles back on track. I no longer have any nausea and have a better appetite throughout the day.”
“The swelling in my arm and chest is so much better since starting acupuncture. I have no pain in that arm, and I feel more balanced with the other half of my body.” (following left mastectomy)
Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation envisions a future free of cancer. To achieve that, it fosters an environment that embraces basic, translational and clinical research, all dedicated to bringing new discoveries into improved patient care. Its research focuses on breast and gynecological cancers, such as ovarian, cervical and uterine cancers, and is proud to team with up A Glimmer of Hope Foundation, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. The Race to Beat Women’s Cancers recognizes the importance of funding laboratory research while supporting women who are currently facing a breast, ovarian, uterine or cervical cancer diagnosis.
A Glimmer of Hope hosts several fundraisers throughout the year including the Clays for the Cure, sponsored by Home Depot, held on Aug. 16 & 17 at Clay’s Resort.
Visit A Glimmer of Hope's website at: www.symbolofthecure.com. There you can learn about upcoming events, breast cancer, breast cancer research, and how to donate. You can also purchase Diana's original "symbol of the cure" pin as well as other merchandise which helps to fund breast cancer research and provide the latest medical equipment. For more information on volunteering, call 800-454-6746.
To register for The Race to Beat Women’s Cancers, visit: MageeWomens.org/5K.
Northern Connection magazine is proud to be a sponsor of The Race to Beat Women’s Cancers.
By Janice Lane Palko