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Tufts E-News --Keeping Her Promise

Tufts E-News --Keeping Her PromiseAfter she was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer, Susan Asci vowed that if she lived, she would raise money to help Tufts-NEMC track and study the disease.

Boston [07.24.02] After enduring eight months of chemotherapy to treat a rare form of inflammatory breast cancer, Susan Asci got a new lease on life. And she was determined to make good on a promise she made to herself to give others the same second chance, by helping Tufts-New England Medical Center raise the funds needed to study the little known disease that threatened her life.

"All of a sudden, you go from being young, healthy and active to walking into a room and finding out you have cancer and it's in an advanced stage," Asci told the Patriot Ledger, describing her reaction to the unexpected news that she had inflammatory breast cancer. "It was devastating."

Unlike other forms of breast cancer, Asci's rare disease -- which only represents one percent of all breast cancer cases -- has few symptoms. It doesn't even cause a lump. But it kills more than half of those who get the disease, making it twice as deadly as more common forms of breast cancer.

According to Asci's doctor -- Tufts-NEMC oncologist Dr. Donald Lawrence - her treatment would take eight months and require chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.

"I vowed to myself that if I lived through it all, I'd raise some money for Tufts-New England Medical Center," she told the Ledger.

Beating the odds, the Quincy woman survived and is making good on her promise to raise funds to help Tufts study the little-known cancer.

By focusing on a rare form of cancer, Tufts' Dr. Jack Erban -- the chief of hematology and oncology and director of Tufts-NEMC's breast cancer program -- hopes researchers will find a new way to treat all forms of the disease.

"Exceptional forms of cancer lead to great breakthroughs and exceptional thinking," Erban told the Ledger. "It's not just about understanding a rare disease, but also to provide more insight into all forms of breast cancer."

With Asci's help, Tufts-NEMC will create a national registry to track cases of inflammatory breast cancer around the country.

"The hospital wants to collect information on other patients," said Erban, who is also an associate professor at Tufts' School of Medicine. "They hope to go back and use the information to try to study the behavior of the disease and learn something about the genetics of breast cancer."

Already half-way to her initial fundraising goal, Asci has received help from several corporate sponsors, including Blue Cross-Blue Shield and UPS.


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