Help find a cure for breast cancer with tissue donation

By Haley Hernandez - Health Reporter

HOUSTON - The call is going out to women of all ethnic backgrounds. Doctors and researchers in Houston are hoping you can help them find a cure for breast cancer.

This Saturday, our city will host the "Komen Tissue Bank." It's an opportunity for healthy women to join the fight.

Until now, there was little healthy women could do to help breast cancer research, mainly because researchers only studied cancerous tissue, but now researchers say there's a better way to find a cure.

The Komen Tissue Bank at Indiana University is coming to Houston with one main goal.

"We really are focused on diversifying that tissue," donor and program assistant, Kathi Ridley-Merriweather said.

The tissue bank collects sample breast tissue from healthy women. Researchers then compare that tissue to the cells in cancerous breast tissue.

"What we really need to understand is when the changes occur in normal breasts," Baylor College of Medicine Dr. Emily Sedgwick said.

Ridley-Merriweather said, "I feel honor bound as a black female to give of my tissue, I mean for goodness sake, it's nothing!"

She said the entire process takes about an hour. Doctors numb the patients, Ridley-Merriweather said there's not much discomfort. Sedgewick performs the biopsies.

Click here to register for Saturday's event.

Baylor doctors and researchers hope this process will help unlock some of the mystery surrounding breast cancer.

"I've been looking after breast cancer patients for half my life … and I've seen a lot of patients, many of them have become my friends, and I've lost many friends as a result," director of Baylor Breast Center, Dr. Matthew Ellis said.

In an effort to end that cycle, they're begging women to register and show up Saturday at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center.

"As a black female, I know what the concerns are out there, history has not been kind to African Americans for example, but this is not your grandmother's research," Ridley-Merriweather said.

"Breast cancer in women of color is not as well studied as we would like and part of that is due to not having as much tissue as we need and to be able to look at it," Sedgwick said.

"What may be true for people of African or Central American ancestry may be different than people of European ancestry," Ellis said.

Registration ends Friday morning.

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