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Amanda Murphy

Team Member: Team Kilimanjaro




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Cancer Sucks: Help support me climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to support Fred Hutch Cancer Research

I recently accepted the challenge to climb with Fred Hutch’s Climb to Fight Cancer. Please join me as I raise funds for lifesaving research at Fred Hutch.

Cancer is a devastating disease, estimated to strike one in three women and one in two men in their lifetimes. I am climbing to raise vital funds for Fred Hutch’s lifesaving research. You can help by donating to my climb, which will accelerate the quest for cures. Any amount you can give makes a difference to people and families facing deadly diseases. Your gift is 100% tax deductible and will fund extraordinary research, lifesaving discoveries, and cures.

Fred Hutch Cancer Center has made some of the world’s most important medical advances - from developing bone marrow transplantation as a cure for leukemia, to pioneering powerful therapies that harness the immune system to fight cancer, to leading national and international initiatives that enable earlier cancer diagnoses and more effective treatments. This leading-edge research depends on private contributions that fuel novel studies, which have the power to make a profound difference.

Like many other people, I have a personal history with cancer that I rarely share, which also like many others has motivated me personally -- including in this effort to raise money to support Fred Hutch. 

My mother was diagnosed with ER+, Stage 1, HER2- breast cancer when she was 49; I was a sophomore in college and my younger brothers were 17 and 12. 

This was 1993. Tests like Genomic Health's Oncotype Dx didn't exist. Hereditary cancer testing wasn't well-known. My mother chose to move forward with a double mastectomy and radiation - not chemotherapy. She took tamoxifen for the following seven years. 

Fast forward to 2003. This was the year before Genomic Health commercialized the Oncotype Dx test - fundamentally changing the landscape for breast cancer treatment forever. I was participating in Mrs. T's Triathlon in Chicago. I was 27.  My mom came to visit. I remember thinking she looked so healthy/happy. Within a day after she returned home, she was having trouble walking with her right leg. They thought it was arthritis. It got worse daily until she couldn't walk at all - one CT scan later, and we found out she had metastatic cancer, which had spread to several organs in her body and her bones. It was hard to grasp the concept that she looked so healthy but inside, she was far from it.

The cancer had mutated so much it was no longer ER positive and they couldn't trace the tissue of origin anymore. I moved back home - deferring my first-year at business school. We bounced back and forth from her community doctor to Johns Hopkins. 

We were seeing a pancreatic specialist at Hopkins - I will never forget him. We both knew the outcome - but how do you tell a 57-year-old woman she won't see her kids get married or even her youngest graduate from college (he was 19)? You will never meet your grandchildren (she would have had 7). 

She was on an aggressive form of chemotherapy -- unwilling not to fight or lose hope. Her doctor at Hopkins and I discussed it and moved her to Xeloda - knowing it wouldn't likely work but would give her a break from the treatment effects. While she felt better, her cancer was so aggressive, I would find new lumps appearing on her back daily.

She passed away nine months after she was diagnosed -- shortly after her 58th birthday - of course watching Law and Order (those who know me will appreciate that). By that time, it had progressed to her brain.

I always wonder what would have happened if she had the ability to take the Oncotype test. Would she have been high risk - been treated with chemotherapy then and her outcome be different? Thanks to other advances in diagnostics and hereditary cancer testing via Myriad, Invitae and others, our family was able to come some peace that we did not carry BRAC and other hereditary mutations - despite the fact that her father (my grandfather) also died at 58 of her lung cancer and her sister of liver cancer at 60.

The progress made in breast and other cancers both from a diagnostic and therapeutic standpoint since then have been mind-blowing. My role as a stock analyst covering many aspects of healthcare (including diagnostics and genomics) gave me a front row seat. 

I had the privilege of following LabCorp, Quest, Veracyte, Foundation Medicine, Exact Sciences, Adaptive Biotechnologies, Neogenomics, Invitae, Genoptix, Myriad Genetics, as well as many enabling technologies, including Illumina, PacBio, Repligen, Bio-Techne, FEIC, Life Tech, Waters, Bruker, and VWR. My later days as an analyst included a foray into therapeutics covering cell and gene therapy companies including CRISPR, Allogene, Intellia, Exact Sciences, Cellectis, Fate Therapeutics, Precision BioSciences, Cellular Biomedicines Group, and Magenta Therapeutics.

I have had the opportunity of getting to know many, many other private and public companies, researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors that have driven major strides in the ability to detect early-stage cancer, drive research forward with spatial genomics, use synthetic biology to take medical research to avenues -- not to mention the effort, advances, and investment being made to extend the life of those with cancer -- even approaching long-term "curative" remission -- via novel modalities.

We still have a long way to go and what better way than to directly support such an amazing research organization. Please join me and donate today.  Thank you for your support!

Did you know?

  • Fred Hutch has been at the leading edge of cancer research for 45 years - starting with bone marrow transplantation, which can cure some cancers and has helped more than 1 million people. It was pioneered by Dr. E. Donnall Thomas at Fred Hutch. Today, Hutch researchers continue that legacy through groundbreaking work to expand immunotherapy.
  • Fred Hutch is a leader in infectious disease research, including breakthrough findings on the herpesvirus and on the pathogens and viruses that cause an estimated 1 in 5 cancers. It is also the home of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.
  • Fred Hutch’s work is centered on the people we serve. This includes research to understand cancer’s toll on individuals and communities; improve health equity, especially among black people and people of color; improve prevention; and treat the entire person, not just the disease.
  • Fred Hutch researchers and staff are guided by integrity, scientific excellence, and collaboration - a dedication that has earned them the Gold Seal of Transparency on GuideStar, a service that evaluates more than 2 million U.S. nonprofits.