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Pink Ribbon Cause Marketing Doing Its Job Again

Breast cancer is heterogeneous, not homogeneous. There are subtypes that are more deadly and less receptive to current therapies, including a variety known as triple negative breast cancer.

Most breast cancers are fueled by three hormonal ‘receptors;’ estrogen, progesterone, or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). Consequently, most successful treatments target these receptors. A triple negative breast cancer diagnosis means that the cancer was not triggered by hormonal receptors.

Triple negative breast cancer represents about 15% to 25% of all breast cancer cases, so it’s not exactly an orphan disease, even if I’d never heard of it. Among younger women triple negative breast cancer disproportionately affects African Americans, and their prognosis is worse than for women from other ethnic groups.

While triple negative breast cancer responds well to chemotherapy, in some cases early complete response does not correlate with survival rates. And so it’s especially challenging for clinicians to dial in the right chemotherapy for women battling TNBC.

The Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation was founded in 2006 in honor of Nancy Block-Zenna. Block-Zenna was diagnosed with TNBC in 2005 and died 2½ years later from the disease. Robin Littman, a friend from childhood on, and her husband had beach towels made embroidered with a peace sign, a heart, and a pink ribbon. Sales of the towels were meant to help Nancy pay for chemotherapy that her insurance company initially refused to cover. In time the insurance company relented, but by that point Littman and friends had generated more than $9,000. That sum seeded the foundation.

Before I saw the silk blouse at the left from, whose sale benefits the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, I knew exactly none of this. The blouse sells for $225 and one-half the proceeds benefit the TNBC.

This cause marketing effort, therefore, did one-half its job; it raised awareness. If you like the blouse and buy it, you’ll help the campaign meet the other half of its goal… funding for the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation to do research and raise awareness of this subtype of breast cancer.


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