Zebulon Woman Inspires Collaboration between Duke and UNC to Advance Metastatic Breast Cancer Research
Rhonda Howell, a courageous resident of Zebulon, tragically lost her battle with the deadliest form of breast cancer, but her legacy of advocating for increased funding for metastatic breast cancer research lives on. Diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in 2013, Howell underwent a double mastectomy and endured several rounds of treatments. However, a year later, her cancer returned, spreading to her pelvis and spine.
The survival rate for breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast stands at a mere 29%, underscoring the urgent need for intensified efforts in stage 3 breast cancer research. Howell’s story became the impetus for a ground-breaking collaboration between researchers from Duke and UNC, aiming to advance the understanding and treatment options for metastatic breast cancer.
The Metastatic Breast Cancer Collaborative Research Initiative was established, uniting the expertise and resources of the esteemed institutions Duke Cancer Institute and UNC Lineberger, with the generous support of Triangle Komen. This unique collaboration between researchers from different institutions has set the stage for groundbreaking advancements in the field of metastatic breast cancer research, with Howell’s personal journey serving as a driving force.
The ultimate goal of this research collaboration is to develop personalized vaccines that can effectively target and eliminate metastatic breast cancer, ultimately preventing recurrence and improving survival rates. Howell’s passing in January 2022 was a devastating loss, but her contributions and legacy will continue to impact future grants and research efforts, ensuring that her fight against metastatic breast cancer does not go unrecognized or forgotten.
In addition to her advocacy work, Howell also served as a patient ambassador for Pfizer and played a vital role in co-chairing charity galas, which successfully raised an impressive $375,000 for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research. Her tenacity and dedication have undoubtedly made a significant impact on the lives of those battling this devastating disease.
As we remember Rhonda Howell and the countless others affected by metastatic breast cancer, it is imperative that we continue to support and invest in research initiatives that aim to find more effective treatments and ultimately a cure. The collaboration between Duke and UNC stands as a testament to the power of unity and the potential for groundbreaking discoveries that can transform the lives of breast cancer patients in the future.