Research News

IU Simon Cancer Center Update - September

Mary A. Maxwell, Development Director, IU Simon Cancer Center
(Saturday, October 8, 2011)
Indianapolis, Indiana Researchers are making discoveries every day at the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Research Laboratories at Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. Meet Kathy D. Miller, M.D., a cancer doctor, scientist, mom ... and a leader in the quest to find new, effective treatments.

At the Vera Bradley Foundation Laboratories for Breas Cancer Research, I’m a cancer doctor and scientist. At home I’m a mother and wife. But actually, the roles are not so clear cut. My patients help me realize how lucky I am to have a healthy family. I hug my kids a little tighter on quite a few occasions. Sadly, I’ve known young moms - wonderful women – whose cancers have claimed their lives. It’s no wonder that I worry less about the little things at home – boo boos and temper tantrums – that are part of a normal day. What’s important is that I’m the one tucking Erin, 2, and Kael, 5, in at night and saying “I love you.” My family makes me a more empathetic doctor. I understand the complicated lives my patients juggle and can appreciate why cancer—and my treatment instructions—may not be their priority.

Both roles help me appreciate how much we all need the support of others. Because of the Vera Bradley Foundation, our patients have an army of people working for them. They know about the incredible research you fund that allows us to offer new therapies. That these studies exist is a source of real comfort and hope for them, helping us all sleep a little better at night.

Dr. Miller is national director of a new drug study that targets telomeres, caps at the end of chromosomes that regulate when cells grow old and die. Normally, caps shrink over time signaling cells to die. However, cancer cell telomeres are protected by a telomerase enzyme resulting in ageless cancer cells. Research in the Vera Bradley Laboratories directed by Brittney-Shea Herbert, Ph.D., led to the design of a molecule that cripples this enzyme. Together, Drs. Herbert and Miller hope this new agent makes current chemotherapy far more effective in killing breast cancer cells.