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Vera Bradley fortifies breast-cancer fight

Its commitment to finding a cure grows greater with the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer’s latest gift announcement. The Fort Wayne-based foundation Thursday announced a pledge of $15 million to support research at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.

The latest pledge, following $20 million in gifts fulfilled in November, brings to $35 million the total pledged to support the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Research Laboratories.

“We strongly believe in the research team’s focus: precision therapeutics,” said Catherine Hill, executive director of the foundation, in a news release, “Stated simply, precision therapeutics is giving the right medicine to the right patient at the right time based on genetic factors of both the patient and the tumor.”

IU researchers plan to use the money to search for genetic characteristics or mutations driving specific subtypes of breast cancer and to look for new or existing drugs as treatment. They hope to identify genetic markers that will allow them to predict which patients will suffer from life-changing and life-threatening side effects to treatment, or whose cancer is likely to metastasize.

A new Vera Bradley Foundation Scholars Program will train scientists and physicians as future leaders in breast cancer research and care. As a result of support from the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, the number of IU researchers concentrating on breast cancer has grown from six in 1999 to 38 today.

Vera Bradley Inc. is the chief benefactor for the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, contributing about $1 million each year. Additional funds are raised by the foundation’s annual golf and tennis tournament, which last year raised a record $1,047,235, and by individual gifts.

Vera Bradley’s co-founders, Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia Miller, created the foundation after the loss of a friend, Mary Sloan, to breast cancer.

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