Our panel guests this week each contribute to cancer research in their own way. One raises money, one is an innovator and one of them is benefiting from a new, developing treatment.
Full Frame Panel: Cancer-fighting crusadersOur panel guests this week each contribute to cancer research in their own way. One raises money, one is an innovator and one of them is benefiting from a new, developing treatment.
Dr. Brian Czerniecki, the Rhodes-Harrington Professor in Surgical Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, has developed a revolutionary experimental breast cancer vaccine that enables a patient’s own white blood cells to fight cancer within the body.
“We reprogram the immune response that the cancer co-oped so that the cancer could survive, so we basically take some of the patient’s white blood cells and reeducate them out of the body and inject them back in, and after 5 or 6 injections the patient’s immune response beings to build back up to where it was in a happy individual and fights the cancer,” Czerniecki said.
Uschi Keszler is a former Olympic-athlete-turned-Olympic-figure-skating-coach and a two-time cancer survivor. She is also founder of Pennies in Action, a non-profit that has raised over $1 million for breast cancer research. She was introduced to Dr. Czerniecki during her treatment and, despite not qualifying as a candidate for the vaccine; she has raised funds for his research and treatments.
“Coming from sports I said I don’t have really any experience in fundraising, but I’ll give it a try,” said Keszler. “So then I thought I need to use what I know best and that’s trying to get somebody to the top. The only way you can win is to beat your opponent at its own game and that is how that all came about.”
Joining them is one of Dr. Czerniecki’s patients, Melissa Nicholas. She is currently being treated in one of his vaccine trials. She gives her perspective as a cancer patient and how medicine and treatment for the disease has improved vastly.
“We’re on the chemo-horse and we’re moving to the immunotherapy car. And so that change does not happen without some sort of a revolution, somewhat of a crusade. That’s why we call ourselves crusaders,” Nicholas said.
Dr. Czerniecki also speaks on how he feels being able to help cancer patients with his revolutionary new treatment.
“When patients get an opportunity to live and return to their normal life I’ve done my job as a physician,” he said. “So it gives me a great sense of pride being able to help patients. And it’s tough. Breast cancer is still not completely cured. We are making strides in it and there are less deaths today then there were even 10, 15 years ago thanks to some of the more target therapies.”
All three crusades sat down with Mike Walter to discuss their efforts in the continuing battle against cancer.