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Advancing research

Regis Foundation’s support helps take breakthroughs from lab to patients

Anita Kunin knows the importance of finding the best ways to diagnose and treat breast cancer. She’s a 15-year breast cancer survivor — and she’s not alone. “I’m starting to feel like everyone I know is a survivor,” she says.

Kunin is also the founder and driving force behind the Regis Foundation for Breast Cancer Research, an organization affiliated with Regis Corporation, the Edina-based chain of hair salons founded by her husband, Myron Kunin. Today Regis has more than 11,000 salons throughout North America and Europe under the brand names MasterCuts, Trade Secret, Supercuts, SmartStyle, Cost Cutters, and Regis Salons.

Since 1990, Regis stylists have been donating their time and proceeds from haircuts on a specific day in October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month — to the company’s foundation.

Under Kunin’s guidance, the Regis Foundation for Breast Cancer Research has given nearly $1 million to breast cancer efforts at the Cancer Center over the past five years. Last year, the foundation increased its annual gift to $300,000 to fund three innovative projects.

“The University of Minnesota has a grand reputation, and since the Regis corporate headquarters are here, it’s a prime place to focus our dollars,” Kunin says.

Funding from the Regis Foundation has supported several projects to help researchers turn their findings into novel treatments for patients, says Doug Yee, M.D., director of the Cancer Center’s Breast Cancer Research Program and holder of the Tickle Family Land-Grant Chair in Breast Cancer Research.

The foundation has been especially generous in giving to pilot research projects, Yee says. Through pilot projects, researchers can test new ideas; if preliminary findings show that an idea is worth further investigation, researchers can compete for larger grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Not all projects go as expected, Yee cautions. But so far the pilot projects within the Breast Cancer Research Program have done well. “Fortunately, most have been translated into larger funding from the NIH,” he says.

The Regis Foundation also supports magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) research at the Cancer Center to help find the best diagnostic tests and treatment regimens for women with advanced breast cancer.

Yee says it’s often difficult to find funding for the infrastructure needed to conduct research, but the Regis Foundation supports that area, too. Juliette Gay, R.N., is now part of the research team as a nurse manager with support from the foundation’s gifts. “She knows as much about breast cancer as anybody,” Yee says.
Gay currently helps enroll eligible women in clinical trials, a major part of translational research that brings breakthroughs in the lab another step closer to becoming treatment breakthroughs for patients worldwide.

“Regis has been really generous in supporting what we need to make our program a more innovative place for breast cancer care and research,” Yee says.

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