Researchers are one step closer to curing breast cancer at the Mayo Clinic with a new microscope called the Nanostring GeoMX.
“We are excited to be pioneers in the evaluation of a brand-new technology,” Dr. Edith Perez, an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, said.
The Mayo Clinic is now one of four facilities worldwide to use this microscope.
“It’s mainly telling us what are the key immune features that determine whether a patient is going to survive or not survive,” Dr. Aubrey Thompson, an oncology researcher, said. “That then leads us to figure out how to manipulate those immune features to decrease breast cancer mortality.”
Forty-four patients have volunteered samples of their cancerous tumors to be used with this microscope. Some of these patients have reacted well to previous treatments, others haven't.
This new microscope can analyze those immune cells to try and find the key factors that lead some patients to survival, and others unresponsive.
The microscope is partially funded by the DONNA Foundation, founded by Donna Deegan. Deegan is a breast cancer survivor and knows what it’s like to be in a patient’s shoes.
“I want everyone to feel hopeful,” Deegan said. “When you look at this machine and the way it is helping us to understand the immune system -- if we could actually somehow get the immune system to work in our favor when it comes to cancer -- and I believe that’s the eventual goal, I want everyone to be excited about that future. Every day, those advances are happening.”
Over $3 million have been donated to the Mayo Clinic for breast cancer research from the foundation. Tuesday, she is hopeful as she sees where her supporters’ money is being used at the Mayo Clinic.
“I believe now that we understand so much more and with machines like this,” Deegan said. “I think we are going to see exponential growth in new treatments and cures.”
Dr. Perez is confident this immune system research may help in other cancer research as well.
“It’s really expanding to other tumor types,” Perez said. “It’s one of those things, one technology can help all.”