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Heron Therapeutics plans to match every donation made to Susan G. Komen by way of the Heron Matching Program through the end of 2016.
A company focused on developing anti-nausea and anti-pain medications for people with cancer has donated $250,000 to help reduce breast cancer deaths — approximately one dollar for every woman expected to be diagnosed with an invasive form of the disease in 2016.
Heron Therapeutics and an affiliated partner made the donation in late November to Susan G. Komen, to help support a goal the nonprofit organization had announced just a month earlier: to reduce the current number of U.S. deaths from breast cancer by 50 percent over the next decade.
And Heron’s involvement won’t stop there. The California-based company has pledged to match, dollar for dollar — up to a total of $1 million — every donation made to Komen by way of the Heron Matching Program through the end of 2016. The company is hopeful that the campaign will inspire an overall gift of $2 million for Komen, in addition to the $250,000 it already donated.
Both individuals and organizations are invited to donate, and can do so in their own names, in memory of someone who succumbed to cancer or as a holiday gift in the name of a friend or loved one.
“The money donated will be going toward our mission to meet the most critical needs in local communities, such as screening, education, treatment and psychosocial support, and investing in breakthrough research to prevent and cure breast cancer,” says Christina Alford, senior vice president of development for Komen.
Specifically, to help patients undergoing treatment, Komen local affiliates provide grants to communities, designating some of that money for education of women about how to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy. The grants are not used to prescribe drugs, but to steer women toward helpful resources, from hospitals and doctors to patient navigators and 24/7 helplines.
On the research front, Alford says, Komen’s “focus is on emerging technologies and intractable cancers where there’s currently no cure, and metastatic disease. Partnerships like this enable us to get there.”
A Shared Concern About Side Effects
Even when promising treatment regimens are available for patients with breast cancer, health outcomes can be compromised unless patients take the drugs when they’re supposed to.
“Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) is a real challenge to patients staying on their therapies,” Alford says. “From our perspective, helping patients complete their treatment protocol is extremely important to driving positive outcomes of their treatment.”
Barry D. Quart, Pharm.D., Heron’s chief executive officer, agrees.
“When we have looked at questionnaires filled out by patients, nausea and vomiting is their biggest concern. When we speak with physicians, they all have examples of patients who have prematurely discontinued a chemotherapy regimen because of excessive nausea and vomiting,” he says. Even when they are taking anti-nausea medications, Quart says, “We believe there are far too many patients, particularly women with breast cancer, who receive … chemotherapy and are suffering from excessive nausea and vomiting.”
That issue is especially important to Heron, which makes Sustol (granisetron) extended-release injection — approved by the FDA in August, in combination with other anti-nausea drugs, to help prevent nausea and vomiting in patients taking chemotherapy that is moderately likely to cause CINV; it’s also “the only product for prophylaxis against CINV that is specifically indicated for anthracycline plus cyclophosphamide chemotherapy,” Quart says.
Meanwhile, Heron is developing HTX-019, a formulation of aprepitant that works differently than Sustol to prevent nausea and vomiting; it blocks the neurokinin 1 receptor in the central nervous system, which otherwise could become activated, inducing vomiting. Heron is also developing HTX-011, a long-acting formulation that combines the local anesthetic bupivacaine and the anti-inflammatory meloxicam for the prevention of post-operative pain.
Quart called its collaboration with Komen a “perfect fit,” adding that “we look forward to a very long and productive relationship. Not only are we focused on supportive care in cancer and hoping to help the lives of patients with cancer, but we are also focusing on post-operative pain in women with breast cancer, because the pain after surgery can lead to prolonged use of opiates. It’s one of those side effects that’s the most disconcerting for patients. So we see that we have an opportunity to work together for a long time.”
How to Donate
According to Quart, the beauty of Heron’s fundraising partnership with Komen is that it “allows people to double the benefit of any end-of-year giving.”
People can donate by visiting Komen’s website, komen.org, and clicking on the “donate now” button on the homepage. Donors can choose to direct their money to one of three areas of research — stage 4/metastatic breast cancer, general breast cancer or triple-negative disease — or can give to a general fund, which devotes money not only to research, but to education and support of patients with breast cancer and their families.
“It’s all about being able to meet women where they are,” Alford says, “and help provide education and access to the care and services they need.”