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Breast tissue donations contribute to cure

January 2, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Understanding the changes a woman's body goes through before, during and after breast cancer can help researchers tailor and design better treatments. Doctors have been given the rare opportunity to study healthy and cancerous tissue. One woman is making a unique contribution.

"[Chemotheraphy] was, it was devastating. And I wanted to do whatever I needed to do in order to keep my two daughters from this diagnosis," said breast cancer survivor Lisa Miller.

So Lisa donated her cancerous breast tissue to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Tissue Bank in Indianapolis, Indiana.

"I was of the opinion, 'Take whatever you need,'" said Lisa.

Lisa's story is unique because she's one of only two women in the world to also donate tissue to the bank before she had cancer.

"She's an interesting case because she has a genetic predisposition to breast cancer," said Dr. Susan Clare, Indiana University. "She has a BRCA mutation, which we know about. So we are very interested to know what her breast cancer tissue is going to look like compared to her normal."

The bank started in 2005. Dr. Clare says more than 1,500 women from all races, body types and ages have made donations.

"And now they want to know, 'What are you doing with my tissue? Who has it? What are they finding?' And so it's another way of participating beyond sending a check to the American Cancer Society," said Clare.

The samples are frozen in liquid nitrogen. Doctors hope somewhere in the vials exists the cure for breast cancer.

"The breast oncologist that I work with, they want to be put out of a job," said Lisa. "I hear them say that a lot."

Out of a job because a cure for breast cancer may soon be found.

The Tissue Bank samples have helped provide base samples for cancer researchers all over the world to analyze against cancer cells. So far the bank has provided samples for close to 60 research projects.