Breast cancer patients at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville may soon be receiving tailor-made treatments thanks to a large donation from an Amelia Island couple.
The $5 million gift from Cecilia and Dan Carmichael is helping fund Mayo’s new Individualized Medicine Clinic in Jacksonville.
The impetus for the contribution, says 67-year-old Cecilia Carmichael, was her 2008 breast cancer diagnosis by Mayo Clinic doctors.
"Because, of course, when you have breast cancer, you immediately start thinking about your children and grandchildren,” she said.
Carmichael set out to learn as much as she could about her disease. One thing she discovered was that all breast cancers are not alike.
“I was given the opportunity to look at slides of breast cancers that were categorized as the same, and they were totally different under the microscope. The breast cancer cells looked so different,” she said.
Dr. Alexander Parker, the head of Mayo's new Individualized Medicine Clinic in Jacksonville, said when it comes to breast cancer, looks can be deceiving.
“It’s actually possible for a breast cancer at a molecular level to look more similar to a kidney cancer than another breast cancer,” he said.
The way Parker describes it, sequencing the genomes of a tumor provides a sort of genetic fingerprint that will help doctors find the most effective way of treating it.
"What the gift from the Carmichael's is going to allow us to do is move from the promise of bringing these technological advances, particularly in genomics, move from the promise that these things offer to making them a reality in the practice," he said.
In addition to endowing Dr. Parker’s position, the $5 million gift also establishes the Cecilia and Dan Carmichael Family Fund for Individualized Breast Cancer Medicine.