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Let the games begin...

BY GUEST
PUBLISHED THURSDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2010
CURE invited Kathleen (Kat) Werner, a breast cancer survivor, to serve as a guest blogger during the 33rd annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, December 8-12. You can read her full story here.

What do you get when you put 36 advocates, leaders from advocacy groups large and small, and survivors in a room with at least five representatives from the biggest pharmaceutical companies?

No, it's not the start of a bad joke; it's the start of the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Last night this group of advocates gathered for a welcome dinner. We shared our stories of what brought us to this day. How our advocacy journey started and what we hoped to do for the future. There was talk of the National Breast Cancer Coalition's (NBCC) 2020 breast cancer deadline campaign, mention of new mammography guidelines, friends lost, sisters saved and a general theme that all of our children need to be spared from the battle we have lived.

I have said it before, but if the cure to breast cancer was based on the character of the warriors fighting to end it, we would have found a cure a long time ago. Everyone in that room, around those tables and entering those doors had made a sacrifice to be there. A sacrifice in time, money, physical health, cultural barriers or sheer distance.

We had advocates from every corner of the world. From remote islands off of New Zealand, Egypt, Nigeria, Scotland, Australia and every corner of the United States. It is humbling to belly-ache about the health care or cancer problems in this country only to hear the story of a Nigerian woman whose sister died of breast cancer, having not told anyone of the lump she found because of lack of proper treatment and cultural stigma. The picture of how many people we are fighting for grows bigger. We suddenly realize the diversity of this non-biased disease and realize a cure in any country can have a worldwide impact on saving lives.

This morning (Wednesday) is the first day of the SABCS. For us advocates, our job starts early. The NBCC offers a free session for advocates called the "Project LEAD Advance Topic Session." (Project LEAD is a premiere science training course provided by NBCC to equip advocates to have an educated seat at the table with researchers in the ongoing dialogue of breast cancer science.) NBCC brings in top researchers from cutting edge institutions all over the country to give a brief overview of some of the highlights of research in the past year and being shared in coming days at the SABCS. It's an intense science session, with the correct assumption that most of the advocates in the room are highly trained and educated and don't need the information "dumbed down." Issues of genetics, metastasis, stem cells, biomarkers, personalized medicine, cell biology, radiation and major areas of concern are addressed in a quick overview to highlight some of the most promising new or developing science.

Wednesday afternoon, SABCS officially began for the rest of the attendees. There will be several types of sessions over the next few days:

-Educational Sessions: Designed to provide people with a better understanding of the talks they hear using the techniques that will be described. They provide researchers with a guide to the techniques they should be considering for their studies.

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