Baylor doctor receives grant to help understand triple negative breast cancer

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HOUSTON – Joan Lunden is in Houston visiting with Baylor College of Medicine oncologist Dr. Matthew Ellis, who received a grant in her name.

Dr. Ellis devotes his career to understanding triple negative breast cancer, like the type Lunden battled herself.

Thursday Lunden, Ellis and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (who awarded Ellis the funding) toured the lab together.

“I've kind of become the interlocutor between all of the breast cancer researchers and doctors BCRF kind of puts me with and then all of the women out there around the country seeking answers,” Lunden said.

Ellis said the grant will fund a nationwide clinical trial for a blood test that might detect molecules to indicate a relapse up to 18 months before symptoms.

“Then we intervene, we don't wait for the patient to develop the symptomatic relapse,” Ellis said.

As a survivor, Lunden admits relapse is a constant concern. She considers this test a tool we urgently need to save lives.

“I hear from young women, late 20s, lots of them in their 30s [with] young kids, really young kids and they just desperately want to be able to be kept alive so they can be there for their children and see their children grow up and it just breaks my heart when I read these messages from them,” Lunden said. “So, to be able to be a part of a grant like this, just study what is going to keep so many women alive is thrilling, there's no other way to put it.”

Ellis said having someone with Lunden's notoriety helps gain funding that will unlock the mystery that stands between researchers and this kind of cancer.