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Research Is the Reason I’m Determined to Find the Next Breakthrough

By BCRF | September 24, 2019

BCRF researcher Dr. Priscilla Brastianos is driven by the memories of her grandmother and mother to find answers for those with metastatic breast cancer.

Priscilla Brastianos grew up hearing stories about her grandmother—a medical student who was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early twenties. Even with metastatic breast cancer she continued to practice medicine.

“My grandmother was a huge inspiration to me. I decided to become a doctor to emulate her,” she says.

Forty years after her grandmother was in medical school, Priscilla followed in her footsteps and also decided to pursue a career in medicine. In her third year of medical school, Priscilla’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“We lived through the trepidation of awaiting scan results, the anxiety of trips to the emergency room and the side effects of her chemotherapies,” she said.

As she watched her mother undergo treatment, Priscilla changed her course from neurosurgery to oncology.

“At that time, I saw the role the oncologist had in my mother’s life. It was then I decided I would pursue oncology,” she said.

Sadly, a few years later her mother died of breast cancer.

“Her death is a reminder that we need to do better for cancer. That’s what drives me and motivates me every day.”

Today Priscilla is the Director, Central Nervous System Metastasis Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. As a BCRF researcher, her work seeks to identify new prevention and treatment strategies for breast cancer that has spread to the brain.

To do so, her lab is conducting studies to characterize the genetic and molecular profiles of brain metastasis in order to improve responses to existing therapies.

It’s a mission rooted in a promise she made to her mother days before her death.

“She made me promise to do better for patients. I’m committed to this relentless pursuit. When I have a tough day, I hear Mom’s voice, and I’m going to live up to that promise.”

Read more personal stories about breast cancer from BCRF’s Research Is The Reason campaign here.