Student Creators of “Stop Breast Cancer Now” Present Check to Lurie Cancer Center

From left to right: Blake B., Ryan S., Anthony P., Charlie S., Dr. Gradishar, Sebastian M., Justin B., and Jakub N.

On Tuesday, June 13, seven members of Ms. Nashwa Mekky’s fifth grade class at Ivy Hill Elementary School visited the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. In honor of a classmate who lost a family member to breast cancer earlier this year, these students formed the group Stop Breast Cancer Now to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research at the Lurie Cancer Center. At their first fundraiser on May 30, the group raised $1,210.50, which they presented in the form of a giant check during their visit.

“You should all be proud of yourselves for doing something great like this for others,” said William J. Gradishar, MD, the Betsy Bramsen Professor of Breast Oncology, who met with the students to talk about his work as an oncologist. “Your gift means a lot to me and to all of the patients you’re helping. Big and small, everything plays a part.” Dr. Gradishar also is the interim chief of Hematology/Oncology in the Department of Medicine.

The students were well prepared with questions for Dr. Gradishar, including why he chose to work in this field and the type of research he conducts.

“Research is all about teamwork,” said Dr. Gradishar. “To create new medications, for example, it can take decades. Everyone from the laboratory to the clinic plays an important role.”

Dr. Zhang shows the group equipment in the Cristofanilli laboratory used to analyze the genetic makeup of tumor cells.

When asked for some words of career advice, Dr. Gradishar told the students to “do what you enjoy, and focus on what you’re interested in.”

After their meeting with Dr. Gradishar and the formal check presentation, the students took a tour of the laboratory of Massimo Cristofanilli, MD, professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology led by laboratory manager and research technologist Youbin Zhang, PhD.

Dr. Zhang showed the students several pieces of equipment that are used to analyze the genetic makeup of tumor cells in order to pinpoint the identity of different breast cancers. The hope is that these tests and anlyses will help Dr. Cristofanilli and his team to come up with more targeted therapies for different types of breast cancer and, ultimately, discover the causes of breast cancer and how it can be cured.

“Your gift means a lot to me and to all of the patients you’re helping. Big and small, everything plays a part.”

- William J. Gradishar, MD