Pink Ribbon Brunch spreads hope

By Liz Mellino

Reasons to be hopeful

An update on the breast cancer research work of Dr Paul Beavis from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre was shared at yesterday’s Shepparton News Pink Ribbon Brunch.

Mr Beavis, who also spoke at last year’s event, has established a research group that is looking at developing new immune-based therapies for breast cancer.

This research, funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, was once again the recipient of the money raised from yesterday’s event.

Mr Beavis said the funding the foundation had received had been instrumental in its quest to re-engineering the immune system to fight cancer cells.

‘‘The money that has been raised by the Shepparton News through the NBCF funding partners is really vital to the research that we do and has helped us to develop a system to make these genetically immune cells better in targeting breast cancers,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve developed some pre-clinical data for this and now we’re hoping to move on to using human cells to show how this can work for patients in the future.’’

With cancer research developing each year, the foundation had set a goal to have zero deaths from breast cancer in 2030.

Mr Beavis said through his research and that of many others in the field the future was looking positive for breast cancer patients.

‘‘There is a lot of reasons to be hopeful particularly with immune therapy because it is a lot less toxic to patients compared to chemotherapy and radiotherapy which is being used,’’ he said.

‘‘Immunotherapy is working really well in other cancer types like melanoma and so there are lots of research groups trying to get these working for other cancers like breast cancer.

‘‘So I think together with early detection and other treatment options there’s a lot of reasons to be hopeful for the future.’’

Decision a 'no brainer'

Tears were shed and Eastbank Centre fell silent when Mardi Mandersloot shared her personal story at the Pink Ribbon Brunch yesterday.

Aged 32, Ms Mandersloot tested positive to the BRCA 2 gene last year and had a double mastectomy to reduce her chances of getting breast cancer in the future.

BRCA 1 and 2 genes are specifically inherited gene mutations that are known to increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

After losing her aunt to breast cancer in 2012 and watching her mother battle the horrible disease, Ms Mandersloot had a number of tests to determine whether she also carried the BRCA 2 gene.

While the positive result was not what she had hoped for, Ms Mandersloot said she was fortunate to detect the mutation early when there was no active cancer in her body.

She was then faced with the decision of having life-altering surgery to reduce her chances of getting breast cancer or instead spending the rest of her life having twice yearly check-ups and hoping for the best.

‘‘Making the decision was a no brainer, I had watched my aunty so sick and pass away and watched my mum in treatment and I didn’t want that for me or my family if I could prevent it,’’ she said.’’

‘‘So decision made easy, I elected to have a mastectomy of both my breasts removed to reduce my chances of breast cancer.

‘‘I have no regrets I consider myself very lucky I have been given the opportunity to be proactive against breast cancer before it’s too late.’’

While the long recovery that followed was extremely testing physically and mentally, Ms Mandersloot said the emotional rollercoaster was worth the pain and heartache it may have prevented.

Ms Mandersloot said that by sharing her story, she hoped people would become more aware of the BRCA 2 gene mutation and the devastating effects it could have on someone and their family.

‘‘It is fortunate that I am aware of the extra precautions I need to take and if anything it has made me stronger and grow as a person,’’ she said.

‘‘Gene mutation or no gene mutation, please check your breasts and be body aware, if you have any changes or concerns see your GP and if they dismiss it see another one.’’