Episode 26: So How Exactly are We Going to Cure Cancer? With Hillary Stires
One of the things that has plagued me since the very beginning of my breast cancer diagnosis - I mean, other than the actual breast cancer, is trying to understand what breast cancer really is. How does breast cancer work? Why has it found such a willing host in my body? And what can I do about it? I’ve been trying to understand the mechanisms of my disease so that I can understand how to stay ahead of it, how to outsmart it. And I guess that is the million-dollar question.
Last December, when I first experienced disease progression, I put out a desperate call on Twitter for help understanding a pathology report. I had had a bone biopsy that had shown that my previously very estrogen positive cancer - as in, my cancer fed voraciously off of estrogen - had stopped feeding off of estrogen, and instead, found a different mechanism to fuel its growth. What mechanism, though, I didn’t know. Apparently, that is a common question for researchers too, and one that there isn’t a good, or known, answer to. It’s frustrating, feeling like you can identify the question, but not being able to find out the answer. It turns out that that frustration is not only on the patient side of things, but experienced by the cancer resrarchers as well. Today, I talk to breast cancer research scientist turned breast cancer advocate Hillary Stires. When I put out my desperate plea for help understanding my pathology report on Twitter, Hillary responded to me, and became a lifeline for me, helping me understand the issues my disease faced, as well as the issues faced by researchers and clinicians treating breast cancer in general.
Hillary is a breast cancer research scientist who now works in healthcare consulting. After completing her PhD in Endocrinology and Animal Biosciences at Rutgers University, she moved to Washington DC for a postdoctoral fellowship at Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. While at Georgetown, Hillary began working with patient advocates and saw the impact of their experiences on her research projects. Six months into her postdoc, her best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28. Hillary’s experiences moved her towards a career in healthcare policy and inspired her to develop programs to connect cancer research scientists and patient advocates.