Sara Gowing: A Partner in Hope Propels Research on Breast Cancer Recurrence

“I think that anyone who has received a cancer diagnosis would agree that it is a moment which is life-altering: emotions range from fear and sadness, to anger and regret, after which you can't help but see everything in a different light.”

For Sara Gowing, that new light as a breast cancer survivor has been characterized by elation for her cancer remission and good health against the odds of and fear for her cancer returning.

“As my breast cancer treatment came to an end, I learned that palpation would be my primary method for monitoring recurrence,” Sara explained. “I was startled to think that after spending a year undergoing cutting edge treatments that included surgery, rounds of chemotherapy with two different drugs, and radiation, I would be back to relying upon breast exams to catch a recurrence of the cancer.”

Sara Gowing

Seeking an Active Measure for Recurrence in Post-treatment Survivorship

Despite 5-year survival rates approaching 90%, a substantial number of breast cancer patients relapse - and many more experience late treatment effects or are diagnosed with a second cancer. As a consequence, millions of breast cancer survivors find themselves in a post-treatment survivorship period that is largely devoid of active measures that they can take to monitor and prevent recurrence.

Sara asked her oncologist, and co-leader of the Breast Cancer Research Program, Angela DeMichele, MD, MSCE, what she could do to help propel breast cancer recurrence research forward.

“I got to know Dr. DeMichele particularly well during my chemotherapy. She was such a big help and provided so much reassurance during the unknowns surrounding my treatment,” Sara explained.

Forming the 2-PREVENT Translational Center of Excellence

“When I learned that the causes and treatment of recurrence was something that she was hoping to change through research, my husband and I were glad to be able to support this important work.”

The Gowings generously established the Breast Cancer Recurrence Program in support of the 2-PREVENT Translational Centers of Excellence (TCE) at the Abramson Cancer Center, co-led by Dr. DeMichele and Lewis Chodosh, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Cancer Biology, Perelman School of Medicine. Translational Centers of Excellence are virtual centers that bring the most brilliant minds across Penn's medical campus together, to solve cancer's most complex challenges.

The 2-PREVENT TCE focuses on the microscopic cells that are left in the body after cancer treatment—rather than the original tumor—and researches how they relate to the original tumor, where they live, how they grow and how they relate to the relapsed tumor. That information is then used to develop clinical trials focused on innovative, targeted therapies.

These cross-disciplinary teams are already making great progress, helping deliver novel, personalized cancer care to cancer patients.

Sara has joined the ranks of the Abramson Cancer Center's brave patients, advocates, and philanthropists who have formed a community of support in the fight to advance research that offers better options and therapies for women diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I am so pleased to be able to support the amazing work being done at the Abramson Cancer Center and know that we will be able to find a cure for breast cancer. Forever.”

Ways to Give to 2-Prevent

To support the Abramson Cancer Center's 2-PREVENT Translational Center of Excellence, please contact Maddie Dickinson at madd@upenn.edu or 215-898-9174.

About This Blog

The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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