She never dreamed she'd become a poster girl for breast cancer research. Garden Grove resident Charlene Kazner, 63, traveled to Indiana University in February to become the first Pacific Islander to donate a healthy breast tissue sample to the Susan G. Komen breast tissue bank.
"I thought, 'What better way for research to find a cure,'" said Kazner.
"Komen gave a $1-million grant to Indiana University to start the only repository of healthy breast tissue in the world" said Lisa Wolter, executive director of the Orange County chapter of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.
Researchers need healthy tissue to compare to diseased tissue so they can study how to prevent cancer on the cellular level. And they need local women to donate. The procedure requires a needle biopsy.
"They numb you before actually doing the procedure, and there was very little pain," said Kazner.
Of the 3,000 tissue samples banked so far, the vast majority are Caucasian women. Preliminary research shows because acts different among the various ethnic groups and researchers won't be able to figure out why unless they get a more diverse sample.
"Every one of those ethnic populations may have another clue to what is going on with breast cancer, and we don't want to be just looking for how does breast cancer happen in Caucasian women," said Wolter.
Asian Pacific Islanders, Latinas and African Americans are often overlooked in scientific research.
So on November 2, organizers will hold a first-time tissue collection on the West Coast. They specifically chose Orange County to enroll more women of color, but the results will benefit everyone.
"It's exciting to be part of something that's really worldwide and is going to make an incredible impact," said Wolter.
The next collection stop for the Komen Tissue Bank will take place in Kenya, Africa.
To become a donor, you need to sign up online ahead of time similar to making a doctor's appointment.