RACHAEL Murnane was in home quarantine, her family's overseas holiday cut short by the pandemic, when she first noticed something did not feel right.
Within days the 43-year-old was diagnosed with advanced lobular breast cancer.
Amid the surreal haze in April, Ms Murnane knew she wanted to help others the best way she could rat the time, with Ballarat's Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute.
"I don't remember a lot about that first consult with George (FECRI honourary director Professor Kannourakis). But I do remember being asked about donating my tissue and blood samples and I didn't hesitate, I had absolute clarity," Ms Murnane said.
"Research from the Institute has improved the survival rate and treatment for my type of cancer. Hopefully in turn, I can help the treatment for women in the future.
"...I am the beneficiary of amazing women who gave in the past. If they don't have donations from these amazing women, researchers can't do their work to improve treatments and ultimately find a cure."
I am the beneficiary of amazing women who gave in the past. Hopefully in turn, I can help the treatment for women in the future.Rachael Murnane
Ms Murnane had heard a little about FECRI's internationally recognised research made in Ballarat, she had been to fundraising events, but never thought she would personally benefit from the research.
For Ms Murnane's breast cancer, research has shown the survival rate can improve with chemotherapy before surgery, then followed by radiation.
Ms Murnane welcomed news on Friday that FECRI's new breast cancer research group had unlocked a key step to change treatment for women who develop breast cancer in pregnancy.
IN OTHER NEWS
The team has looked closely at the behaviour of a pregnancy associated plasma protein, known as a PAPPA, found in aggressive triple-negative breast cancers.
High PAPPA levels are often found in pregnant women and the team has looked at how this is linked with triggering the growth of aggressive breast cancers, including its role in evading immune response.
FECRI's breast cancer program was launched in March, sparked by a private seed donation and boosted by Ballarat Cycle Classic efforts. This included the appointment of decorated senior researcher Aparna Jayachandran.
This latest work has been published in international medical journal Scientific Reports. The FECRI team - including oncologist and honourary research fellow Prashanth Prithviraj, Professor Kannourakis and Federation University PhD candidate Revari Sharma - collaborated on the report with researchers from Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, University of Melbourne, University of Alberta, Queensland University of Technology, Translational Research Institute and La Trobe University.
A population-based study to support clinical and decision making in treating cancer during pregnancy is currently underway at the Institute
Ms Murnane had no family history of breast cancers. She said she did not fully appreciate just how prevalent breast cancer was among women until facing it herself.
While Ms Murnane understands firsthand how fragile women were on diagnosis, she urged women to be proactive and ask to donate samples from their biopsies.
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