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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Fort Wayne native and Eli Lilly researcher carries message of life beyond cancer

Jessica Baker, a cancer researcher for Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, discovered she had breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, along with targeted drug therapy. She's now on an anti-hormonal drug for 10 years. (Photo courtesy of Eli Lilly)
Jessica Baker, a cancer researcher for Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, discovered she had breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, along with targeted drug therapy. She's now on an anti-hormonal drug for 10 years. (Photo courtesy of Eli Lilly)
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Targeted drug therapy just one thing increasing survival rates, she says.

Monday, August 07, 2017 09:33 am

As a cancer researcher for Eli Lilly & Co. Jessica Baker has a unique perspective. Not only does she look at cancer tumors as part of her work, she keeps a picture of her own breast cancer tumor on her desk.

Five years ago, Baker, then 36, was getting ready for a mammogram the next day and decided to do a breast self-exam. She found a lump.

“I didn't think anything of it,” the Northrop graduate said. “...I didn't have a family history” of breast cancer.

After the mammogram and a biopsy the cancer researcher became a cancer patient.

Now 41 and cancer free, she shares her story as part of the national GoBoldly campaign, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America's multi-year advertising and public affairs initiative.

The campaign highlights the researchers and the work they do.

“As researchers we don't often see the work we do,” she said.

She has seen it first-hand as a patient. Her son was just 3 at the time and she wasn't sure how he'd react to her losing her hair during her six months of chemotherapy after a double mastectomy.

“But he just thought it was the coolest thing,” she explained in the campaign materials.

Her family would come from Fort Wayne, including mother Karen Roseberry, as she underwent treatment, which included target drug therapy. The drug, Herceptin, was only approved 10 years ago, she said, and had she had her aggressive type of cancer before that “I wouldn't be here today.”

Targeted drug therapy works on specific genes or proteins to keep cancer from growing and spreading and has low side-effects.

“It really personalizes the treatment,” she said.

Diagnosis is coming sooner as well.

Three-dimensional mammograms are better at picking up cancer than traditional mammograms, she said.

“People are getting diagnosed at Stage 0,” she said.

Through prevention and diagnosis, the chances of surviving cancer are greater.

“If you're diagnosed with cancer there is hope. ... There's life past cancer.”

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