Since the establishment of the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund, the diagnosis and treatment of cancers of all types has improved dramatically.
The fund initial supported research into improved detection and treatment for embryonal cell carcinoma, the rare cancer that took Brian’s life. After early success led to remarkable improvements in survival rates (now up to 95%) for those with this disease, the fund decided to focus its efforts on breast cancer which strikes hundreds of thousands of women each year.
In the treatment or breast cancer, advances in mammography are credited with increasing the five-year survival rate for localized breast cancer from 80% in the 1970s to 98% today based on earlier detection. Surgical options have also evolved over the years, from often disfiguring radical mastectomies (in which the entire breast, chest muscle and nearby lymph nodes were removed) to much less invasive lumpectomies (in which the tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue are removed). Radiation itself has become much more targeted in an effort to spare healthy tissue.
Yet, some of the most exciting advances in the past decade involve the development of targeted drug therapies. Tamoxifan and Femara, for example, focus on estrogen’s involvement in cancer growth, while Herceptin and other targeted hormonal therapies destroy diseased cells and spare healthy cells by binding to specific proteins implicated in cancer growth.
At Rush University Medical Center, translational research has led to new and more effective treatment options for women including targeted hormonal therapies, such as Herceptin. Renowned breast cancer specialist Janet Wolter, MD, along with colleagues Philip Bonomi, MD and Melody Cobleigh, MD have led a team of internationally recognized experts in breast cancer care; their many loyal and devoted patients speak not only of their expertise, but of their compassion as well.
Currently, Rush researchers are evaluating several promising approaches to improve care and outcomes for breast cancer patients.