Public Release: 

Initial Avon/NCI breast cancer research grants awarded in 'Progress for Patients' awards program

NIH/National Cancer Institute

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Avon Foundation announced today initial grant awards to six applicants for the Avon-NCI "Progress for Patients" Awards Program. These grants, which total $2.5 million, are the first awarded from the unique public-private partnership between the Avon Foundation and NCI, and they encompass all areas of clinical investigation important to breast cancer, including prevention, detection, diagnosis, prediction, prognosis and treatment. The awards will help fund innovative translational science at 10 research institutions. Funding will support early clinical research in breast cancer, including the use of aromatase inhibitors as a prevention tool, new methods of radioimmunotherapy for women with metastatic disease, as well as other areas of research.

The Progress for Patients program was launched in October 2001 when the NCI received a $20 million pledge from the Avon Foundation to fund translational research on breast cancer. The pledge is Avon's largest single award ever. The funds were raised by the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, which has generated more than $200 million in the Unites States alone from 1993 to mid-year 2002. Avon is one of the world's leading corporate supporters of the breast cancer cause, with programs in nearly 50 countries, and the only one to fund the whole spectrum of the breast cancer cause - medical research, clinical care, support services, education and early detection - with a focus on medically underserved women.

Applicants for the Progress for Patients grants were encouraged to include minorities and underserved women in their studies. According to Jorge Gomez, M.D., NCI, "the breadth of projects that we recommended for funding was truly impressive, which made choosing the final grant awardees a very difficult, but rewarding process."

Nine applications for the grants were received from the SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) program, which target all types of breast cancer interventions. The $2.5 million in initial grants (of which Avon provided $1.99 million and NCI provided $660,000) represents the first payment towards the $20 million gift from Avon, which will be committed over the next four years. Additional grants to fund early-phase clinical interventions at NCI-designated cancer centers and SPOREs will be announced next year.

Each grant application was reviewed by a minimum of four reviewers, consisting of several scientific reviewers, statisticians, and patient advocates, who evaluated and scored each application. From these reviews, final recommendations on funding were forwarded from NCI to the Avon Foundation for their concurrence.

"Avon is actively committed to finding the cure for breast cancer, as well as improving the quality of treatment and access to care among medically underserved women," said Kathleen Walas, president, Avon Foundation. "In partnership with the NCI, we believe we can help reverse historic disparities in healthcare while greatly accelerating important research in prevention, detection and treatment of breast cancer."

Funding decisions, based on the rankings of the reviewed projects, were approved by NCI Director Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D. "I'm extremely pleased that the funding made possible by the Avon-NCI private-public partnership will support well-designed research that includes minorities and the underserved. This investment by Avon will help NCI to close the gap between discovery and delivery in breast cancer research," von Eschenbach said.

In addition to the Progress for Patients funding, the Avon Foundation maintains a comprehensive philanthropic program that supports junior investigators and areas of great promise in research that are under-funded by other sources. Included among these are nine NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers: Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Comprehensive Cancer Center, Boston, Mass.; University of California, San Francisco Comprehensive Cancer Center/SFGH; Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, Chicago, Ill.; Chao Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California at Irvine, Calif.; Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Wash.; Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, New York, N.Y.; The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, Md.; University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center; and University of Colorado Cancer Center, Denver. All institutions receiving funds must commit a significant portion of those dollars to innovative new programs to serve the medically underserved and reverse health disparities.

The initial Avon-NCI Progress for Patients grant awards are as follows:

Grant Number Awardee Institute(s) Application Title/Study Description Grant Total Costs
89019 University of Alabama Pre-targeting radioimmunotherapy for metastatic breast cancer $197,736
Baylor College of Medicine (lead)
Dana Farber-Harvard Cancer Institute
Johns Hopkins University
A phase I/II breast cancer prevention study using the chemotherapy drug Iressa $391,743
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center (lead)
University of Alabama
Fox Chase Cancer Center
M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Validation of a breast biomarker panel $998,538
58223 U. North Carolina Chapel Hill Novel approaches for patients with large breast cancers $244,502
Duke University (lead)
Dana Farber-Harvard Cancer Institute
U.C. San Francisco
U. North Carolina Chapel Hill
Novel biomarkers for aromatase inhibitor therapy $447,383
89393 Dana Farber-Harvard Cancer Institute Anti-angiogenic therapies for breast cancer $230,793


For more information about cancer, visit the NCI Web site at

The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade: Funding Access to Care and Finding a Cure

Launched in the United States in 1993, the mission of the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade is to fund access to care and finding a cure for breast cancer. This includes funding five vital areas of the breast cancer cause: medical research (into the possible prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of breast cancer); clinical care; support services and financial assistance; education; and early detection programs, all with a focus on the medically underserved - the poor, minorities, elderly and those with inadequate insurance.

Funds are generated in the United States by the many programs of the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, including special Avon Crusade "pink ribbon" fundraising products sold by 550,000 Avon independent sales representatives, a series of fundraising walks, and local and national special events. Avon also supports breast cancer programs in nearly 50 countries worldwide. By the end of 2002 Avon will have reached the unprecedented goal of $250 million total raised worldwide since the first program was launched a decade ago. More information is available at

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