October 17, 2013
LAWT News Service
Alondra Park in Lawndale was filled with walkers and runners wearing pink ribbons and black t-shirts reading, “Keep Calm and Keep Stepping” as they took part in the Fourth Annual Stepping Toward the Cure® 5K Run and Walk.
Major support for the event was provided by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. Cancer activist and star of Emmy award-winning show “Felicity” and “Tyler Perry’s Family Reunion”, Tangi Miller, along with multi-talented singer, songwriter, and producer Sheléa Frazier, also attended the event.
The day of fitness, festivities, and fundraising, which began at 8 a.m. on Saturday, October 5, was organized by California based non-profit, Triple Step Toward the Cure®, an organization that seeks to educate women about a little known sub-type of breast cancer called triple negative, or TNBC, that tends to disproportionately affect young women and women of color.
Co-founded by Lori Flowers after her sister Sheryl died at age 42, Triple Step directly supports women diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. All of the proceeds from the 5K event fund programs that provide services ranging from financial aid for rent, transportation, groceries, and childcare to assistance locating clinical trials and quality medical care.
“When my sister passed, my mind refused to process that she was truly gone,” said Flowers, who co-founded the organization along with her mother Carole Flowers-Clement and friend, TNBC survivor, Louisa Gloger. “I knew we had to do something more engaging and active with this experience.”
Sheryl’s diagnosis was a shock to the family. The disease did not run in her family’s history, but more alarmingly, her sister was in her late 30s when diagnosed—seemingly too young to have cancer. Triple negative, refers to a subtype of breast cancer that lacks the three important receptors – estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR) and the Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2 (HER-2/neu) -- which are shown to fuel most breast cancers and are used as targets for treatment. There are no targeted therapies for triple negative, making chemotherapy, radiation and surgery the current treatment standard. This cancer also tends to be very aggressive and often has a high rate of recurrence.
“We are encouraged by the strides made in breast cancer research, but we have a long way to go. We need more focus on this subtype so that increased efforts will be made to develop better treatment options and ultimately a cure.” says Triple Step Co-founder and TNBC survivor, Louisa Gloger. “I was extremely blessed to have the support of my community along with access to incredible doctors during my fight and we at Triple Step feel that every TNBC patient deserves the same experience.”
Black and Latino women overall are twice as likely to have triple negative tumors as white women and although they account for a small proportion of overall breast cancers, they also have a higher mortality rate. “Even though they represent a small proportion of breast cancers overall, this is the group that is responsible for a large proportion of breast cancer death,” says Melinda Telli, MD, an assistant professor of oncology at Stanford University. “Although any woman could potentially be affected, triple negative cancers tend to hit early, disproportionately affecting pre-menopausal women and women of color.”
“This organization is in the spirit of what she stood for,” said Flowers noting that as a journalist and the former director of Communications for the Tavis Smiley Group, her sister was always looking for good information to share with people to enrich the quality of their lives. “It is about empowering people with information.”
During his remarks, Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, further noted that it is important to educate women and families about this rare but deadly form of cancer. “We want people to be armed with information about this disease,” he said. “But we also want them to have a resource where they can find not just comfort and support, but the assistance they need to stay in their homes and on their feet while they fight this fight.”
For more information about triple negative breast cancer and the work that Triple Step Toward the Cure is doing, visit www.triplesteptowardthecure.org.