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The Telegraph — Godfrey woman’s legacy fuels metastatic breast cancer research

The Telegraph — Godfrey woman’s legacy fuels metastatic breast cancer research

GODFREY— It’s been 10 years since the late Theresa Newby Harpole founded Theresa’s Research Foundation.

Though she lost her fight with metastatic breast cancer at age 46, foundation members say there is plenty to celebrate and she would be proud.

Theresa’s Research Foundation’s authoritative research has been published in a white paper titled “Continuing to Improve the Odds Together: Next Steps for Engaging Researchers and Advocates.”

This white paper highlights findings from last year’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Research Conference, founded in part by Theresa’s Research Foundation, and is a follow up to foundation’s publication in “npj Breast Cancer,” a new open-access, online-only, multidisciplinary research journal dedicated to publishing the finest of breast cancer research and treatment.

Not only is the Godfrey-based Theresa’s Research Foundation’s marking its 10th anniversary, this year is also the 10-year anniversary of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Research Conference founded in part by the foundation.

“Theresa’s Research Foundation has been a leader in creating a space at the Metastatic Breast Cancer Research Conference (MBCRC) for connections between these groups and encouraging the broader cancer research community to do so as well,” said Dr. Hillary Stires, director, Regulatory and Research Partnerships at Friends of Cancer Research.

“Patient advocates and cancer researchers working together is critical for better research that leads to improved patient outcomes.”

An appreciation for the value of including the patient advocate voice in cancer research has increased in recent years. But often research scientists and patient advocates are uncertain about how to establish or maintain relationships with one another, Stires noted.

Theresa’s Research Foundation’s paper describes how the group at the conference identified solutions to overcome barriers in building bidirectional relationships identified in the npj Breast Cancer manuscript, including short- and long-term goals.

Learning from life challenges

In 2013, Newby Harpole had been living with metastatic breast cancer for several years when she recognized that more needed to be done for people with metastatic breast cancer. Foundation members say the drive epitomized Newby Harpole who always put others first.

With the help of her family, friends and community, Theresa’s Research Foundation was established, getting off the ground quickly through a relationship with prominent researchers at Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis, where Newby Harpole was treated. Its first event was a huge success and showed that the foundation had a bright future.

Newby Harpole died later that year.

Thes tragedy has a triumph, as the foundation moved forward with her vision of “Working Together to Change the Odds.” Newby Harpole was passionate about education, so it was fitting that the foundation started a conference focused on metastatic breast cancer with prominent researchers in 2014. The foundation also hosted a gala in 2014 in her honor.

“The foundation and Theresa’s family are forever grateful beyond words for the tremendous support of friends, family, co-workers, and the many businesses in our community that supported the foundation in its early days and stuck with us,” said Linda Morrissey board president of Theresa’s Research Foundation.

“I am blown away each year as I walk into the conference and see my little sister’s face up on the wide screen with the top researchers in the country in attendance learning about the latest in research,” she said.

Expanding efforts

Since 2014, the foundation has focused on expanding the conference to bring together a diverse audience, including patients and patient advocates, and create a collaborative research environment with a long-term goal of developing curative approaches for metastatic breast cancer.

The conference has been co-hosted at prominent academic institutions including the University of Kansas Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Mayo Clinic and the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.

“We are grateful to all the researchers and clinicians who have participated in the conference over the years as well as patient advocates who have contributed so much to this work,” Morrissey said.

Many outstanding breast cancer researchers from across the world attended and contributed to the 10th annual Metastatic Breast Cancer Research Conference this year.

“This is a unique meeting that brings together breast cancer clinicians, researchers, trainees, and patient advocates in an intimate forum to discuss the most exciting research advances and pressing issues in metastatic breast cancer,” said Dr. Alana Welm, professor and senior director of basic science at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute.

The foundation hosted a celebration on Aug. 31 to mark its 10-year milestone at this year’s conference in Park City, Utah. It also is launching a 10-year fund to ensure that Theresa’s Research Foundation can continue to facilitate the conference and help patients with metastatic cancer for years to come.

The mission of Theresa’s Research Foundation is to specifically fund research for metastatic breast cancer that provides better treatment options, improves quality of life for patients and will one day lead to a cure.

The organization annually hosts the Metastatic Breast Cancer Research Conference in collaboration with the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Utah Huntsman Cancer Institute. This year’s conference was also livestreamed.