31 Days of Impact – Day 26, Dr. Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo
The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.
ANA MARIA GONZALEZ-ANGULO, MD, HOUSTON, TEXAS – Doctor and Researcher
“I am a doctor and an expert on breast cancer, but that doesn’t mean I can provide treatment to everyone – that reality is especially hard when it’s a member of your own family.”
“I’ve been on both sides of the table: as a doctor and as a family member of a loved one who was diagnosed with cancer.”
“This specific testing is expensive, and often not covered in this setting it, so Komen’s funding was extremely important for those women who would have otherwise not being able to participate in our clinical.”
There’s a significant history of cancer in my family – and that has given me a different perspective and a deeper understanding as a doctor. I’ve been on both sides of the table: as a doctor and as a family member of a loved one who was diagnosed with advanced disease. That experience has made me extremely sympathetic to patients because I know how difficult it is to see your family member going through surgery and chemotherapy. I also know what it feels like to go through the pain of feeling helpless when treatment is unavailable. I am a doctor and an expert on breast cancer, but that doesn’t mean I can provide treatment to everyone – that reality is especially hard when it’s a member of your own family.
Although I first thought I was going to focus in lung cancer, during fellowship realized that I wanted to focus on breast cancer. When I was initially making that change, I was lucky enough to have a conversation with one of the most renowned breast cancer experts, Dr. Gabriel Hortobagyi, the chair of the department of breast medical oncology and director of the Breast Cancer Research Program at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. He was the one who encouraged me to apply for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Fellowship at M.D. Anderson. Once I was accepted as a fellow, the rest is history. I fell in love with the work and have been at M.D. Anderson ever since – a total of 8 years in faculty.
The Komen fellowship was an extraordinary experience. It was multidisciplinary, hands-on and allowed me to work across the board –surgery, pathology, radiation. I was able to scrubb in into the operating room. The fellowship provided a broad scope and helped me truly understand the multidisciplinary care needed to treat breast cancer and how to facilitate it.
My work with Komen didn’t end after my fellowship. I received a Komen grant, and currently I serve as a Komen Scholar. Komen has provided funding for a clinical trial I lead that assists to support the molecular testing that screen patients for the study. The clinical trial called RxPONDER will help determine if that testing can be used to identify women with node-positive breast cancer who could forgo chemotherapy. Komen’s funding was extremely important for those women who would have not being able to participate in our clinical trial. I’m happy that I’m able to bring drugs and personalized therapy to patients in need. As a doctor, and as a family member, I’m also incredibly grateful to Komen for its work toward finding a cure.
Watch a “day in the life” of Dr. Gonzales-Angulo and learn more about her important research.
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About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.