PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Those fighting cancer and those working to cure it came together Friday to discuss the groundbreaking strides being made in treatment and care.
At the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s 6th Annual Rhode Island Research Breakfast in Providence, a panel of doctors shared some recent advances in cancer research.
Wafik El-Deiry, MD, PhD, FACP, is the Associate Dean for Oncologic Sciences at the Warren Alpert Medical School and the Director of the Joint Program in Cancer Biology at Brown University and affiliated hospitals.
“There are a lot of exciting advances, and the advances are saving lives, and the research is contributing directly to the progress that’s being made, so we just need to keep up the momentum.,” El-Deiry said.
Special guests like Sen. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) also highlighted the importance of funding research programs.
Reed co-wrote the Childhood Cancer STAR Act, which aims to advance pediatric cancer research and treatments. It was passed in 2018.
Bethany Engstrom, 26, of Wakefield, is an advocate and volunteer for ACS CAN. Her mother and grandmother both had breast cancer, and when Engstrom was 21, she learned she too may be at risk.
Despite the breast cancer history on her mother’s side, Engstrom found out she had a gene mutation on her father’s side called MUTYH. It’s a colon and breast cancer gene mutation, which increases the chances of getting those cancers at an early age. When doctors told her this, Engstrom decided to take preventative measures.
After a colonoscopy, doctors found pre-cancerous polyps. She now gets screenings every few years.
Egstrom also had a lumpectomy, which removes cancerous or abnormal tissue from the breast. Doctors told her she had pre-breast cancer and her margins were unclear.
Last year, Engstrom made the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy, which was followed by a reconstruction surgery earlier this year. Now, she’s using her experience to create awareness for people of all ages to get screened and stay on top of their health.
“I turned what would have been a pretty traumatic experience into an opportunity to share with people that may be going through what I went through,” Engstrom said.
In 2017, researchers in Rhode Island received over $194 million in funding from the National Institute of Health.