Please note that some translations using Google Translate may not be accurately represented and downloaded documents cannot be translated. Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund assume no liability for inaccuracies that may result from using this third-party tool, which is for website translation.
Please note that some translations using Google Translate may not be accurately represented and downloaded documents cannot be translated. Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund assume no liability for inaccuracies that may result from using this third-party tool, which is for website translation.

Breast cancer patient inspires endowed fund at Dana-Farber

Suzanne Michels Obenshain

Summer 2024
By Colleen Sullivan
Photography by Sam Ogden

Suzanne Michels Obenshain was 42 years old and living in Switzerland with her husband and three young children when she was diagnosed with stage IV triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). In just five days after her diagnosis, Suzanne packed up her family’s entire life in Switzerland and moved back to the Boston area. She knew she needed Dana-Farber.

While incredible strides have been made in the battle against other types of breast cancer, TNBC remains an aggressive subtype with a poor prognosis. Suzanne passed away in September 2020—just a few weeks shy of her 44th birthday.

To honor Suzanne’s memory, her family began raising funds to establish a permanent endowment in TNBC research under the direction of Sara Tolaney, MD, MPH, chief of the Division of Breast Oncology within the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. To date, the fund has raised $630,000, with more than 300 donors contributing. And that number only continues to grow—a testament to the impact Suzanne had on people’s lives.

“Suzanne herself understood the fundamental power of research.”

Meghan Sherwood

“Suzanne herself understood the fundamental power of research,” said Suzanne’s sister Meghan. “We created this fund because we recognized that triple-negative breast cancer is a space where basic research is desperately needed to develop durable treatment options that give young women like Suzanne more time. We are incredibly grateful that our donors come back year after year to make this endowment possible.”

Sara Tolaney, MD, MPH

In triple-negative breast cancer, the cancer cells do not have estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 receptors. These three molecules are effective drug targets for other forms of breast cancer, but because they do not exist in TNBC, developing targeted treatments for this disease is challenging. That’s something Suzanne’s loved ones hope to change with the endowment.

“Dana-Farber’s focus on basic research, especially for diseases like triple-negative breast cancer, is going to make a difference,” said Suzanne’s husband Andrew, whose background in biopharma helped inform the decision to seek treatment—and fund research—at Dana-Farber. “When you get that combination of access to clinical trials and basic science understanding, you get the best insights. I’m hoping this fund will enable researchers to think differently about TNBC and try new approaches.”

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