Susan G. Komen® Renames Metastatic Breast Cancer Research Grant After Local Raleigh Resident and Breast Cancer Advocate 

Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, today announced the renaming of a metastatic breast cancer (MBC) grant to honor Rhonda Crocker Howell, a Raleigh resident, community leader and dedicated breast cancer advocate. The grant will be renamed The Susan G. Komen Metastatic Breast Cancer Collaborative Research Grant in honor of Rhonda Crocker Howell.  

Rhonda passed away in 2022 at the age of 42, and the grant has been renamed to honor her passion for research to find the cures for MBC, advocacy for those living with MBC, and contributions to the breast cancer community in Raleigh. 

Rhonda was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer when she was only 34 years old, and after four rounds of chemotherapy and 35 rounds of radiation therapy, Rhonda had no evidence of disease in 2013. In 2015, after experiencing severe back pain, she found that her cancer had unfortunately returned and metastasized to her spine and liver. Following her diagnosis, she vowed to make the most of every day and was a dedicated advocate for MBC research until her passing in 2022.  

“Throughout Rhonda’s battle with cancer, she demonstrated unwavering strength and commitment to raise awareness and funding for research to find a cure for this horrid disease. We are touched and honored to know that her determination and passion to make a difference in the lives of others impacted by breast cancer will continue to serve as a beacon of hope for so many,” said Rhonda’s mother, Ginger Crocker.  

“Throughout Rhonda’s battle with MBC, she always looked at life in a positive way. She fought this terrible disease for over 6 years but did it with the most inspiring courage, strength and will to live so she could see our son grow up. Rhonda knew that new cutting-edge treatments would be her best chance to outlast MBC and the only way to new treatments was research. She made it her mission to spread awareness around MBC and raise money with the goal of funding new research all while fighting this disease in the most courageous way I have ever seen. Rhonda was the most determined, inspiring and loving person I have ever met, and we miss her terribly. Her family and mine are honored that her hard work and determination will leave a legacy that will lead to more research and future treatment options giving hope to the thousands of lives of men and women fighting this terrible disease,” said Rhonda’s husband, Adam Howell.  

“Rhonda was instrumental in raising critical funds for research to find new ways to prevent, detect and treat MBC,” said Kim Sabelko, PhD, Susan G. Komen’s Vice President of Scientific Strategy and Programs. “She also shared her incredible story with researchers to help them understand the realities of living with MBC and the urgent need for better treatments and cures. Renaming this grant is a meaningful way to honor her legacy and support collaborative research that will make a difference for women in the state of North Carolina and around the world.” 

Dr. Zachary Hartman of Duke Cancer Institute and Dr. Benjamin Vincent of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center were awarded this grant to develop a personalized anti-tumor vaccine strategy for patients with advanced triple negative breast cancer that would mobilize the body’s immune system (T cells) to shut down tumor growth and metastasis. 

This grant was made possible in part by the Susan G. Komen Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) Collaborative Research Initiative. The initiative is an effort to pair researchers from Duke Cancer Institute and UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center together to address significant gaps in our knowledge about MBC to advance patient care and improve patient outcomes. 

Please visit the Komen Blog for more information on Rhonda Crocker Howell and her contributions to the MBC community. To learn more about Komen’s grants, please visit   

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