Research News

IU Simon Cancer Center Update - April

Mary A. Maxwell, Development Director, IU Simon Cancer Center
(Tuesday, May 1, 2012)
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 Brittney-Shea Herbert, Ph.D., an adventurous spirit inside and outside of the lab. Her novel research is helping save lives, including her own.

In her office, adjacent to her busy laboratories, Brittney-Shea Herbert, Ph.D., exudes a quiet confidence that doesn’t quite square with her love of adventure, but is in complete harmony with her philosophy about work and play. “We all need to escape so that we can come back to our day-to-day lives refreshed and rejuvenated by the beauty that is in the world. Time away allows me to reflect on what my lab is doing, who we’re doing it for and how we can do it better.”

Brittney-Shea, as her mother always called her, doesn’t have to travel far to know why she is vested in breast cancer research. Both her mother and grandmother succumbed to the disease. Today they would be very proud of her. Her team conducted the research to disable a flawed enzyme – telomerase – that allows cancer cells to live indefinitely. This work led to the development of a drug that is now showing promise in trials with patients who have advanced breast cancer at the IU Simon Cancer Center.

“How far we’ve come,” Brittney says about cancer treatment as she recounts her father’s recent successful prostate cancer surgery and her own recent breast cancer diagnosis. After returning from time away with her family, she now has the perspective she needs to share her recent cancer treatment journey. “Now it’s personal. I know the impact.” Following surgery and 30 days of radiation that concluded on Valentine’s Day, Brittney is a proud and strong survivor. Her work continues with a fresh perspective. “There are a lot more courageous women, men – even children – who are battling cancer.”

Vera Bradley Foundation Lab Update
Brittney earned her doctorate studying the relationship between nutrition and cancer. Now, in addition to her telomerase research, a new project involves collaboration with Sophie Lelièvre, Ph.D., to study cancer prevention. Purdue’s Dr. Lelièvre has grown 3-D cell-culture models of breast ducts using cancer cell lines developed by Brittney. Each line represents a different genetic form of breast cancer and patients of different risk. They are studying what influence, if any, nutrition may have on preventing breast cancer.