Healthy choices

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When Dr. Glynn Wilson, chairman and CEO of TapImmune Inc., discusses the early successes of his company’s Phase I clinical studies to treat HER2/neu breast cancer, it might be easy to let the rising fog of immunotherapy jargon envelop you. His understated demeanor and soft voice are tethered to the memories of his wife, Sheelagh Mary Wilson, to whom he was married for 30 years and with whom he was raising their young children, Danielle and Alexander. She succumbed to metastatic breast cancer in 2003. Dr. Wilson must now be in the business of saving the life of another man’s wife and another child’s mother.

With any luck’s Wilson’s words at the annual Pink Ribbon Luncheon – hosted by Susan G. Komen South Florida at Woodfield Country Club in Boca Raton – will make the others in attendance as resolute about saving these lives as he is.

“We are at the forefront of research,” Wilson says matter-of-factly. TapImmune’s team, which includes Dr. Keith Knutson, whose research is partially funded by Susan G. Komen, ultimately aims to develop “…effective prophylactic vaccines for the prevention of breast cancer that can be used at the earliest stage of cancer detection…,” according to TapImmune’s literature. The vaccines would stimulate the body’s own cellular immune system to find and destroy breast cancer cells. Phase II clinical studies will soon be underway.

Drs. Glynn Wilson and Keith Knutson

Drs. Glynn Wilson and Keith Knutson

Lori Randell asked herself a simple question: “Who gets breast cancer at 34?” The answer was, “ I do.” Randell, of Palm Beach Gardens, discovered an abnormality during the course of a self-examination she undertook because a friend was having a mammogram. Soon Randell was scheduled for a biopsy and too soon she learned she had breast cancer.

“Everything changed,” she said. “My husband’s role changed; now he was giving rides to our children to all their activities while I was having chemo.” And with the familiar timbre and words of proud breast cancer survivors, the diminutive wife and mother concluded, “Letting cancer win is not an option.” Now Randell spreads her message of survival.

It may be said that Susan G. Komen South Florida has loyal followers, and Fern Duberman, who chaired the Pink Ribbon Luncheon, is certainly one. The hundreds of guests who lined the silent auction tables, placing their bids to win exotic excursions and indulgent pampering, owed the seamless progression of the day’s celebration to Duberman and her volunteer team. Duberman appeared most pleased when she posed for a photograph with Teens of Pink Ribbon. The teenage women volunteered at the luncheon and stuffed goodie bags for the occasion.

Sheina Koolik, a freshman at Spanish River High School, said, “There are 25 of us [Teens of Pink Ribbon] and we meet once a week to help raise money to fight breast cancer.” The teens did land office business selling pink bracelets sporting their TOPR signature during the luncheon.

Dr. Wilson, Lori Randell, Fern Duberman and Sheina Koolik share a noble trait that Koolik expressed when she described TOPR, “We just want to help.”

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