Friday, October 23, 2009

Reflections on Breast Cancer Research by Sue Chehrenegar

I am pleased to welcome guest author, Susan Chehrenegar today to provide a glimpse behind the scenes of research in the right against breast cancer. Her unique perspective will enlighten you and may just give you inspiration to support this worthwhile cause.

Reflections on Breast Cancer Research
by Sue Chehrenegar

During the week of October 5, 2009, word came from Stockholm, Sweden that three scientists would share the 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine. That trio of researchers had made a noteworthy contribution to the growing body or scientific knowledge, as it relates to the human chromosome.

This blog post hopes to draw attention to the fact that recognition of three chromosome experts came at the start of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The writer of this blog post had her first close hand look at breast cancer research while conducting an investigation of chemically induced chromosome damage.

In late 1974, as this writer peered into a microscope and looked for signs of chromosome damage, the woman who sat across from her was helping to add to the still small pool of information about human breast cancers. Since then, the analytical efforts of that laboratory co-worker have provided medical science with information on the frequency with which chromosome damage can be found in the cells of breast cancer patients.

By 1977, this writer had moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. There she worked in a research department where one group of investigators was working with a special type of cell structure. That structure, called a “spheroid” sought to copy the collection of cells in the human breast. The researchers who worked with those spheroids wanted to learn how different chemicals and nutrients could have an effect on various cells within a typical human breast.

Just after this writer married and became a mother, she began working in an amniocentesis lab. While functioning in the role of cytotechnician, this writer did not manage to have any contact with scientists who were conducting breast cancer research. She did though enjoy frequent contact with such scientists in the final decade of the 20th Century.
During a large part of that decade, this writer was responsible for growing certain types of breast cancer cells. Some of those cell lines had originated with cells from whole breast tissue. Other cells lines had been started with a limited amount of tissue, tissue from a breast duct. At one point, this writer worked closely with a scientist in the biochemistry department at a biotechnology company.

That scientist was trying to develop a new and better way to diagnose breast cancer. She was hoping to discover a protein—something like the PSA used to test for prostate cancer. This writer worked on development of a way to grow breast cancer cells in serum free medium. It was hoped that this tool could aid the identification of a particular protein.

The effort sited in the above paragrapn underlined the difficulties that face any scientist who chooses to pursue some type of breast cancer research. When the chosen breast cancer cells were grown in serum free media, the researchers found that the serum substitute contained a sizable amount of an unwanted protein. This writer sought out and provided the biochemistry department with a method for removing that protein from the media, once it had furnished growing cells with their needed nutrients.

After reading the above recollections, readers of this blog should better understand just how much patience must be displayed by the scientist who truly wants to hasten the advancement of breast cancer research. Hopefully, the world will one day hear that a Nobel Prize has been awarded to a scientist who has made a significant contribution to the fight against breast cancer.

Chehrenegar spent 30 years doing biomedical research. Now retired and a freelance writer she writes for her local paper, the Internet, and children's magazines. Her latest to be released in a soon-to-be published anthology, a book titled THROUGH THE EYES OF LOVE.

Visit author, Susan Chehrenegar at:


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