THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., May 12, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) today announced the 10 Breakaway from Cancer® Champions selected from a nationwide search for survivors, patients, caregivers and advocates who have inspired those affected by cancer. These extraordinary individuals will join breast cancer survivor and Honorary Breakaway from Cancer Champion Joan Lunden at the final stage of the 10th edition of the Amgen Tour of California, America's largest and most prestigious professional cycling race.
While at the Amgen Tour of California, each Champion will be recognized for the positive and inspirational impact they have made in their communities at a reception on May 16 and at the Pasadena overall finish of the race on May 17. They and a guest will watch the race near the finish line in Pasadena and will also participate in the "Breakaway Mile," a special walk along the race course to honor the millions of cancer survivors worldwide.
During Lunden's recent battle with breast cancer, she committed herself to educating women about the importance of screening and early detection. Through her advocacy, she inspired others to protect their own health. Lunden opened up to the public about her personal journey with the hopes that she could offer support and inspiration and provide a better understanding of the cancer treatment process. Her newest book about her battle with breast cancer, entitled Had I Known, will be released this Fall.
"What a thrill to join Amgen's 10 Breakaway from Cancer Champions at the 10th Amgen Tour of California professional bike race," said Lunden. "It means so much to me to have the opportunity to share their stories and to help bring awareness to the resources available to those impacted by cancer."
The 2015 Breakaway from Cancer Champions are:
Shelby Marie Adams, Cancer Survivor/Advocate, Reno, Nev. – During her second breast cancer diagnosis and prompted by the financial reality of her overall cancer journey, Shelby Marie Adams launched into the role of an advocate. Adams could not understand why certain treatments were covered by insurance and others were not. She shared her story with Congress in hopes of passing the Oral Parity Bill and, sensing she could do more, she joined Project Innovation, which encourages the acceleration of medical treatment for cancer patients. She also distributes a "chemo kit" filled with useful items to cancer patients at a local support group. Adams has plans to create a 501c3 nonprofit organization to distribute the "chemo kits."
Karen Borges, Advocate/Caregiver, San Luis Obispo, Calif. – Overwhelmed by her young son's cancer journey and the numerous exams, surgeries and expenses, Borges turned to local nonprofit Jack's Helping Hand (JHH), which is dedicated to helping families of children battling cancer. For two years, while her son Tyler was treated in New York and Los Angeles, JHH provided financial assistance for transportation costs, food, medical bills, and even hearing aids for Tyler. Once Tyler was on the road to recovery, Borges began volunteering at JHH and she now leads the nonprofit, providing assistance to nearly 100 families of children with cancer on California's Central Coast.
Mary Carrillo, Advocate/Caregiver, Irvine, Calif. – Mary Carrillo's world turned upside down on March 24, 2014 – the day her seven-year-old son, Calvin, lost his battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Despite the grief and pain, Carrillo's life mission is now to end blood cancers. She is deeply involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), fundraising and advocating for patients. And, she is in the process of raising $50,000 toward research for the LLS Man and Woman of the Year campaign. In the long term, Carrillo is working toward a foundation in Calvin's name that will assist pediatric cancer patients and their families. Carrillo is a single mom who bravely stood by her son throughout his illness. Now she is moving forward with strength and courage, trying to make a difference for cancer patients like Calvin.
Donna Deegan, Cancer Survivor, Jacksonville, Fla. – When she was diagnosed with cancer, Donna Deegan overcame her initial feelings of fear and anger and chose love. Inspired by the story of one woman who couldn't make ends meet while battling breast cancer, Deegan created The Donna Foundation in June 2003. To date, The Donna Foundation has successfully assisted more than 7,000 women in Northeast Florida, covering expenses such as medical bills, mortgage payments, home utility bills and school tuition. Also an avid runner, Deegan created the only marathon in the country to focus solely on breast cancer research and care – 26.2 with DONNA. Since its inception in 2008, it has attracted tens of thousands of runners from every state and more than 20 countries around the world, raising more than $4 million for the Mayo Clinic and The Donna Foundation.
Elaine Eckert, Advocate/Cancer Survivor, Jacksonville, Fla. – Elaine Eckert is a member of Bosom Buddies, a program in Jacksonville that improves the lives of women affected by breast cancer. She was always the caregiver, not the patient, so her own breast cancer diagnosis in 2008 came as a shock. She had never missed a yearly mammogram since turning 40, never smoked, and did not have a family history of cancer. Now a survivor, Eckert continues to volunteer as a Survivor Advocate for women newly diagnosed with cancer and accompanies them to doctor appointments, acts as a second set of ears and provides support and encouragement.
Shawn Gardner, Advocate, Alexandria, Va. – Breast cancer changed Shawn Gardner's life. An eighth grade English teacher, he is the son of a survivor, the brother of one sister lost to breast cancer and another sister who had prophylactic surgery to avoid the disease. And, Gardner himself carries the breast cancer gene. In honor of his late sister, Gardner started Team Heather, a fundraising group that has raised more than $500,000 and provided nearly 5,000 mammograms or 10,000 clinical breast exams and educated thousands on the importance of early detection.
Nick Gleissner, Cancer Survivor, Hemet, Calif. – The Gleissner family is all-too familiar with childhood cancer. Nick's brother, Christopher, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer in 1997, and after a strenuous two-year battle, passed away. In February 2006, doctors discovered a malignant and inoperable brain stem tumor in Nick Gleissner. It was his sophomore year of high school and the beginning of two challenging years of hospitalizations, therapies and visits with countless specialists. Not only were his memory, speech and vision affected, but Nick also had to re-learn to walk, talk, feed and dress himself. Nick's father bought him a three-wheeled adult trike and that bike launched his recovery and rehabilitation into a passion for cycling. In 2011, Nick rode in his first century ride and has completed 15 more single century rides and two double century rides. He is currently preparing for the Para-Cycling National Championships in May 2015.
Robert Hess, Cancer Survivor/Advocate, Manhattan Beach, Calif. – Inspired by his own journey with cancer, Robert Hess founded the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project (PCAP) in 2006 to raise awareness surrounding early detection. Through PCAP, Hess developed ProstateTracker, an early warning tool that is free online, to monitor PSA levels and send reminders about annual screenings.
Debra Katzenberger, Advocate, Glen Burie, Md. – A grandmother who lost her granddaughter at age eight after a three year battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Debra Katzenberger set out to honor her granddaughter and build a legacy for the little girl she adored. Katzenberger founded The Kamryn Lambert Foundation, which provides help for families with children undergoing cancer treatment, including a program that provides pajamas to pediatric patients. Since February of 2008, they have collected more than 20,000 pairs of pajamas and delivered them to more than 30 hospitals throughout the United States.
William Kenny, Cancer Survivor, Los Angeles – A successful television writer and producer for sitcoms who was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 30, William Kenny's journey with cancer changed his life in many ways. The nurses and how they faced real life with intimate, personal conversations inspired him. He felt that his sitcom career was superficial by comparison and in his exploration for a new future, he went back to school for nursing. He's now a Senior RN at Los Angeles Children's Hospital and is motivated by the children who are his patients.
"Nearly everyone has been touched by cancer in some way or another, and Amgen's hope is that by sharing the stories of these 10 courageous Breakaway from Cancer Champions, we will in turn help someone facing a similar situation," said Raymond C. Jordan, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs at Amgen. "Amgen and our Breakaway from Cancer partners, along with our 2015 Honorary Breakaway from Cancer Champion Joan Lunden, are honored to celebrate these Champions and everyone impacted by cancer during the final weekend of the 10th anniversary of the Amgen Tour of California."
The panel of judges, including Joan Lunden and representatives from Amgen, Anschutz Entertainment Group, Prevent Cancer Foundation, Cancer Support Community, Patient Advocate Foundation and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, selected Champions based on the positive impact nominees have made, as well as overall presentation, passion and appeal of the story.
About Amgen Amgen is committed to unlocking the potential of biology for patients suffering from serious illnesses by discovering, developing, manufacturing and delivering innovative human therapeutics. This approach begins by using tools like advanced human genetics to unravel the complexities of disease and understand the fundamentals of human biology.
Amgen focuses on areas of high unmet medical need and leverages its biologics manufacturing expertise to strive for solutions that improve health outcomes and dramatically improve people's lives. A biotechnology pioneer since 1980, Amgen has grown to be one of the world's leading independent biotechnology companies, has reached millions of patients around the world and is developing a pipeline of medicines with breakaway potential.
About Breakaway from Cancer® Amgen is leading the race to dramatically improve people's lives through its national initiative, Breakaway from Cancer. Founded in 2005 by Amgen, Breakaway from Cancer aims to increase awareness of important resources available to people affected by cancer – from prevention through survivorship. Breakaway from Cancer is a collaboration between Amgen and four nonprofit partner organizations: Prevent Cancer Foundation, Cancer Support Community, Patient Advocate Foundation, and National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. These organizations offer a broad range of support services complementing those provided by a patient's team of healthcare professionals. For more information, please visit www.breakawayfromcancer.com or follow us on www.twitter.com/breakawaycancer.
About the Amgen Tour of California The Amgen Tour of California is a Tour de France-style cycling road race created and presented by AEG that challenges the world's top professional cycling teams to compete along a demanding course that traverses hundreds of miles of California's iconic highways, byways and coastlines each spring. The teams chosen to participate have included Olympic medalists, Tour de France contenders and World Champions. Amgen Tour of California is listed on the international professional cycling calendar (2 HC, meaning "beyond category"), awarding important, world-ranking points to the top finishers. More information is available at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.
About Joan Lunden As the longest running host ever on early morning television, Joan Lunden was the co-host of Good Morning America for nearly two decades. Joan is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, health and wellness advocate, international speaker, and a mom of seven children. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in June of 2014, Joan made it her mission to educate and inspire others about breast cancer prevention, treatment, and survival through her video blog on www.JoanLunden.com and via her social media. Her website has quickly become a go-to source of information for women, bringing together experts on a myriad of relevant topics for today's woman not limited to breast cancer, but also including health, boomers, caregiving, and family. Her bestselling books include Joan Lunden's Healthy Cooking, Joan Lunden's Healthy Living, Wake-Up Calls and A Bend in the Road Is Not the End of the Road. Joan speaks all over the country about her breast cancer journey, health & wellness, inspiration, and success. In October, Joan joined NBC's TODAY show as a Special Correspondent for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the show continues to follow her breast cancer journey on the air.
For more information, visit www.Joanlunden.com.
CONTACT: Amgen, Thousand Oaks Kristen Davis, 805-447-3008 (media) Arvind Sood, 805-447-1060 (investors)