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Dolphins Challenge Cancer and AutoNation Team Up to Tackle Breast Cancer Disparities

New partnership funds $1 million Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) project at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

With the shared belief that where you live should not impact if you live, Dolphins Challenge Cancer (DCC) and AutoNation are teaming up to address the links between social, economic and environmental factors and breast cancer mortality.

From left to right: Nipun Merchant, M.D.; Elizabeth Jenkins from DCC, Susan Miller and Michael Manley from AutoNation; Dr. Dorraya El-Ashry from BCRF; Neha Goel, M.D.; Lisa DeLuca from BCRF; Javier Sanchez from DCC

Their new partnership will fund a $1 million, four-year Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) project at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, a part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System. The project, led by Sylvester surgeon-scientist and social epidemiologist Neha Goel, M.D., M.P.H., will investigate critical health disparities among breast cancer patients.

“This funding will continue to support the Miami Breast Cancer Disparities Study which I started approximately three years ago to understand the multilevel nature of disparities, particularly focusing on understanding how where one lives impacts breast cancer outcomes,” said Dr. Goel, member of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, associate professor of surgery in the DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and John K. and Judy H. Schulte Endowed Chair in Cancer Research. “Our goal is to understand how neighborhood-level factors impact outcomes, and most importantly operationalize our research findings to inform interventions leading to impactful change and ultimately elimination of disparities.” 

Studying Social Determinants of Health

“Dr. Goel’s research will help to define how one’s neighborhood impacts their breast cancer, not just in terms of access to care, but also in terms of its influence over the tumor’s characteristics and behavior and ultimately, their survival outcomes,” said BCRF Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Dorraya El-Ashry, Ph.D. “We are so grateful for the commitment of our long-time partners at AutoNation and the support of Dolphins Challenge Cancer. This partnership is providing us with the ability to identify the deeply complex role that the social determinants of health, such as environmental stress and neighborhood, play in breast cancer mortality.”

Neha Goel, M.D.

The BCRF research project will enhance the understanding of the links between neighborhood disadvantage and aggressive breast cancer. Despite significant advances in breast cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment, women living in low-income neighborhoods have a higher breast cancer mortality rate compared to those in affluent neighborhoods. The drivers of this survival gap are complex and intrinsically linked to racial disparities in breast cancer outcomes.

Studies have shown that despite lower rates of breast cancer, Black women are 40% more likely to die of the disease compared to white women, and Hispanic and Latino women are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage with a more aggressive form of the disease.

Pivotal Partnership

“We’re excited to partner with AutoNation as we further our commitment to support our ONE TEAM, ONE FIGHT efforts to fund lifesaving cancer research,” DCC Executive Director Javier Sanchez said. “It’s special when you team up with other industry-leading organizations such as AutoNation, BCRF, and Sylvester, and work together to tackle critical cancer disparities. We believe this research is fundamental to best serving the South Florida community and beyond.”

The DCC and AutoNation, which has held a longstanding commitment to helping drive out cancer through Drive Pink, believe the research this partnership will fund is fundamental to best serving the South Florida community and beyond.

“This is a critical research project that will begin to address widespread socioeconomic health inequalities, leading to more targeted interventions and improved health outcomes among those diagnosed with breast cancer,” said AutoNation Chief Executive Officer Mike Manley.

Dr. Goel says she is extremely humbled and honored to be funded by the Miami Dolphins, AutoNation, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. “These organizations are impactful players in the cancer research space and are really leading by example in our shared quest to inform novel cancer control interventions geared to improve the lives of all our patients by ending cancer disparities.” 

Propelling Sylvester’s Mission

“As the only NCI-designated cancer center in South Florida, one of our missions is to end cancer disparities and healthcare inequities,” said Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., director of Sylvester, Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular biology. “This BCRF Funding, made possible by the partnership between DCC and AutoNation, promises to advance Dr. Goel’s translational research as she strives to understand the causes of disparities among our vulnerable populations and determine the changes that can be made to eliminate inequities.”

The DCC and AutoNation partnership to fund the BCRF project at Sylvester was formally recognized before kickoff at the Miami Dolphins game on September 24, with Dr. Nimer and Dr. Goel from Sylvester, Mike Manley and Susan Miller from AutoNation, Dr. El-Ashry and Lisa De Luca from BCRF, and Javier Sanchez and Elizabeth Jenkins from the DCC, on the field pregame for a special pink football presentation. Additionally, proceeds from the sale of specific Miami Dolphins merchandise at Hard Rock Stadium benefited the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Tags: breast cancer, Dolphins Challenge Cancer, Miami Dolphins, philanthropy, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center