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Rays of Hope funds new breast cancer research center

April 14, 2011




Walkers contribute $1.5 million for study at PVLSI


SPRINGFIELD, April 11—One of the most successful fundraising efforts in western Massachusetts history, the Rays of Hope Walk Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer, is injecting significant additional financial support into local biomedical research with a $1.5 million donation to establish the Rays of Hope Center for Breast Cancer Research at the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute (PVLSI).


The donation, to be delivered over five years beginning this year, is intended to broaden and scale up the breast-cancer research taking place at PVLSI. With new technology now in use at the Institute, researchers can generate, capture and analyze data on a much larger scale, making it possible to integrate and coordinate the work of multiple investigators for greater and more rapid progress in answering research questions.


“The naming of this center is yet another indication of the enduring legacy that Rays of Hope and all its participants have created in our community,” said Carol Baribeau, director of Annual Fund and Events for the Baystate Health Foundation. “On the basis of their own experience, our Rays of Hope walkers are creating hope for future generations by supporting research that could take us much closer to a cure for the disease.”


Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women. A major research goal of the new center is examining links between obesity and breast cancer. It is believed that obesity and metabolic syndrome, a complex illness whose symptoms include obesity, hypertension and early indications of diabetes, can increase breast cancer risk; given increasing obesity rates in the U.S., there is concern about an accompanying increase in breast cancer diagnoses.


“We are just beginning to unlock clues as to whether obesity and breast cancer may be linked, and what those links could mean for prevention, diagnosis and management of the disease,” said Dr. Joseph Jerry, science director for PVLSI and co-director of the new center. “With this more robust support to our continuing research, we are provided significantly improved tools for answering important questions about the cellular and metabolic processes that cause lesions and tumors to develop.”


One of the strengths of the Rays of Hope Center for Breast Cancer Research will be its multidisciplinary approach, combining Baystate Medical Center’s resources and expertise in medical specialties such as oncology, endocrinology and pathology with the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s strengths in polymer and other sciences and bio-epidemiology. Bringing together these strengths under one roof allows researchers to approach the complex and intertwined biological processes behind diseases like obesity, diabetes and breast cancer in an integrated and disease-focused fashion, rather than breaking out individual pieces and causative factors and looking at them one by one.  


“The collaborations taking place at PVLSI already, and those that will expand with the new establishment of this newly funded center, can bring direct benefit to breast cancer patients here in western New England,” said Dr. Grace Makari-Judson, medical director of the Comprehensive Breast Center, part of the Baystate Regional Cancer Program, and co-director of the Rays of Hope Center for Breast Cancer Research. “It’s exciting to consider the potential of this new endeavor.”


“Keeping these dollars here in western Massachusetts, supporting economic and scientific development in the North End of Springfield, and supporting the type of innovative research going on at PVLSI, is really the worthiest of outcomes of our fundraising efforts,” said Baribeau.


Rays of Hope is a long supporter of breast cancer research at PVLSI and breast cancer care in the Baystate Regional Cancer Program. The walk has been supporting new technology for both research and patient care for years. “Now, with this new long-term funding base, we can increase the pace, scope and depth of our work,” said Dr. Makari-Judson.


This year’s Rays of Hope Walk Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer will take place on October 23rd in Springfield and Greenfield, and the Run Toward the Cure 8K will also take place on Oct. 23rd in Springfield.