On July 31st 2018, Susan G Komen Los Angeles County, under the Circle of Promise Initiative funded by The Anthem Blue Cross, will celebrate the birthday of Mrs. Henrietta Lacks to honor her life and legacy.

Mrs. Henrietta Lacks (born Loretta Pleasant) was born on August 1st 1920. She was an African-American woman diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 31 and her cervical samples were harvested at Johns Hopkins without her knowledge. These samples and cells from Lacks’ tumor are the source of the HeLa cell line – the first immortalized cell line. HeLa cells are one of the most important cell lines in medical research. An immortalized cell line will reproduce indefinitely under specific conditions. The HeLa strain was used by Jonas Salk ton develop the polio vaccine, for example. Questions have arisen about the legality of using genetic materials without patient permission, and research organizations that have profited from HeLa have publicly recognized her inadvertent contributions to research.

The HeLa cell line continues to be a source of invaluable medical data to the present day, contributing to breast cancer research and other research on other cancers as well. We celebrate her birthday to honor her life which, in death, has touched so many other lives over the decades since she passed.