How 3,500 women helped save my sister’s life

In Clinical Trials by Barbara Jacoby

By: Lindsey Wahlstrom-Edwards


I have never been one for anniversaries, but life after my sister’s diagnosis with triple positive breast cancer seems to be full of them.

December 1st she found a tumor. December 15th we learned it was cancer. December 17th – her 35th birthday – we learned it was HER2+. December 26th – the fourth anniversary of her mother-in-law’s death from triple-positive breast cancer – we learned the doctor had gotten clear margins during surgery. And on, and on.

But there was one number that has always stuck with me: Ten years. A ten-year gap in diagnoses meant a life and death difference for my sister and her mother-in-law.

Why? Because in those ten years, Herceptin was approved for the treatment of HER2+ breast cancer and Tamoxifen was approved for the treatment of ER+/PR+ breast cancer. Thanks to medical research, my sister had two nuclear weapons in her arsenal where only a few years before there had been none. I give thanks every day to the more than 3,500 women who partook in the Herceptin trials for saving my sister’s life.

That’s why I am passionate about helping connect individuals with medical research. I feel so passionately, in fact, that I have made a career out of working with patients and advocacy groups to make it easy to find and connect with medical research via Antidote Match, a clinical trial search tool my company built to help make it easier to sort through the list of available trials in and find options. By answering just a few questions about your health, our tool can give you a short list of trials to review with your physician and loved ones.

In the age of precision medicine, clinical trials often represent the best option for individuals living with cancer. After all, regardless of condition, the first person cured will be in a clinical trial.

Even if a trial doesn’t find a cure, new treatments are becoming available all the time thanks to the joint work of researchers and the pioneers who give their time and trust to those scientists to participate in trials.

Today, there are thousands of volunteers who are donating their time to help find the next breakthrough in breast cancer treatment. I’m grateful for the opportunity to support them, and help more people celebrate anniversaries like my sister’s most important one: 2.5 years cancer free.