May 9, 2010
Six years ago at age 32, Becky Lorts found a lump in her left breast. She opted to fight her cancer with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to remove both breasts, and she came out clear.
Two years later, Lorts’ cancer returned. It moved to her liver and then to her brain. Brain surgery, more chemotherapy and more radiation followed. Yet even when her liver tumor grew slightly in 2009, this mother of two would not give up.
To Matthew Ellis, MB, BChir, PhD, this made Lorts a perfect candidate for an exciting clinical trial, written by Cynthia Ma, MD, PhD, and funded by the National Cancer Institute, for women with metastatic breast cancer.
“My trial is testing whether a certain drug will block communication between my tumor and the pathway that feeds it,” Lorts says. “The hope is that my tumor will not grow, or that it will even decrease in size. It’s a form of chemotherapy that is way less toxic than the standard chemotherapy that we could have chosen.”
The research of Dr. Ellis, the Anheuser-Busch Chair in Medical Oncology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and a co-investigator of Lorts’ clinical trial, drew Lorts to him in the first place.
“His work is so in-depth that I trust him completely,” she says. “He puts his heart and soul into finding a cure that works for every type of breast cancer. Of course, my family also adores him because he takes the time to talk with us every time I see him. I know that I’m a person to him.”
The Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation’s Cancer Frontier Fund exists so that Dr. Ellis, Dr. Ma and other Siteman Cancer Center researchers have funding to take leaps that could rapidly result in new ways for patients to beat cancer without horrendous side effects, or to live with cancer in good health.
“I’m in no pain, I teach, I take care of my family — I do everything I normally do,” Lorts says. “Every new option that’s discovered through innovative research is a step in the right direction for cancer patients like me. I am living with cancer, not dying from it.”