Maryland mom turned scientist makes remarkable progress in cancer research

Maryland mom turned scientist makes remarkable progress in cancer research (Jay Korff/ABC7)

Last year, we told you about Theresa Beech — the Montgomery County mom with no medical training who made astonishing advances in cancer research while her teenage son was dying of cancer. It’s been one of our most talked about and shared stories. Now we are thrilled to update you on her remarkable progress.

“So this my son Daniel. When he was 11 years old he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma,” Theresa Beech said during a March presentation before a crowd of researchers, physicians and scientists.

Beech recently lectured at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda about the exciting progress made since we brought you her compelling and heartbreaking story last year.

“And as Daniel was dying, he said to me I had to keep doing my work, so I have, for my boy,” Beech told the crowd.

In late 2016, while her son Daniel was losing his battle to an aggressive form of osteosarcoma, Beech used her smarts to teach herself genetics and used her expertise as a space engineer to analyze data from the tumors of more than 100 osteosarcoma patients. This led to discoveries now showing promise in research facilities.

“And I think with osteosarcoma we may just need some crazy ass ideas. That may just be what needs to happen," a very candid Beech told ABC7.

Beech believes that some cancer cells may act like the kind of communication systems she works with every day. Her theory — if we can bring down a communications system, by understanding choke points, maybe we can shut down a cancer cell.

Dr. Rosie Kaplan at NCI took on this idea and has since seen results so promising that she’s moving closer to a human clinical trial.

“For whatever reason, I have a series of ways of looking at things, of understanding things which can help other kids and I believe that when you have something that can help somebody else you need to do that, ” Beech said.

Beech also convinced nearly 20 top cancer doctors from across the country to move forward with a separate clinical trial for relapsed and refractory osteosarcoma based in part on her findings. This time she says it would involve a combination of chemotherapy and targeted therapy based on tumor genetics.

“I’ve just been told it’s happening very quickly," Beech said.

Beech also banded together parents to form the Osteosarcoma Collaborative to fund high risk/high potential research and form a clearing house of information for parents. Beech says hte group is also looking at using a canine osteosarcoma drug on children.

“I think that’s a big deal because it’s another potential clinical trial for kids that right now really have no hope," Beech said.

She’s also encouraged that more and more doctors are now referring patients to her registry that collects genomic data and medical histories. It’s called the POWER Registry standing for Patient/Parent Osteosarcoma Genome-Wide Registry.

Click here for more information on this registry

Click here for more information on Beech’s foundation

What also happened in the just the last week brought our original story, called Because of Daniel, into the national spotlight.

I travelled to Chicago in mid-April to attend the 2018 American Association of Cancer Research annual meeting.

This massive event attracts thousands of scientists from around the world to discuss their tireless efforts at finding more effective and humane cancer treatments for millions of people.

At this conference my story, Because of Daniel, was among several awarded the prestigious Biedler Prize for Cancer Journalism.

The goal of Because of Daniel is to raise awareness about the fundamental unfairness that children like Daniel face and to inspire research that could one day give children additional months, maybe even years of life, that they and their loved ones never thought possible.

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