Help Find a Cure for Breast Cancer

by Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation
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Help Find a Cure for Breast Cancer
Help Find a Cure for Breast Cancer
Help Find a Cure for Breast Cancer
Help Find a Cure for Breast Cancer
Help Find a Cure for Breast Cancer
Help Find a Cure for Breast Cancer
Help Find a Cure for Breast Cancer
Dr. Mendillo Laboratory
Dr. Mendillo Laboratory

The Lynn Sage Foundation has a singular purpose: to fund brilliant researchers dedicated to a world without breast cancer. We know how difficult it is for early-career scientists to receive substantial funding, but we believe their new ideas will lead to cancer breakthroughs. 

Current Lynn Sage Scholar Dr. Marc Mendillo leans on his own personal experience with breast cancer to inspire his research.

“My godmother and my cousin (during her first pregnancy!) were diagnosed with breast cancer. I suspect we all know somebody who has been stricken with breast cancer. While great strides have been made, there are still far too many people that succumb to this disease.”

Dr. Mendillo’s research group takes an alternative approach to anti-cancer strategies, focusing on the cellular stress response system.

“The vast majority of cancer research groups — both in academic and in big pharmaceutical labs – actively map the mutational ‘drivers’ of cancer. These are the mutations that directly turn a non-cancer cell into a cancer cell. Our lab is pursuing a fundamentally different strategy. We are attempting to exploit the pathways that are generally unimportant in normal cells that become essential in the context of cancer. We refer to this as the 'non-oncogene addictions’ of cancer cells.

“We always follow where the science takes us. We have an exorbitant amount of data to suggest the cellular stress response networks that we study are very relevant in breast cancer. We have directly examined more than 2,000 human tumors and bioinformatically analyzed thousands of others. We find that high levels of activation of these stress networks are associated with the most aggressive breast cancers.

“For example, the life of a metastatic breast cancer cell involves growth despite having limited nutrient and oxygen availability. Eventually, these cells leave the initial site of the tumor, invade surrounding tissue, survive passage through the circulatory system, and colonize foreign tissue with a fundamentally different environment. This all happens while being exposed to various cytotoxic chemotherapeutic drugs. Ironically, the pro-survival cellular stress response network acts to enable tumor cell survival – all to our own detriment. We believe that targeting this ‘addiction’ of cancers to the stress response network offers a powerful and unique type of anti-cancer strategy.”

Unfortunately, it is very difficult for young researchers with new or alternative strategies to secure funding. The Lynn Sage Foundation is committed to innovative research and the brilliant minds diligently working to improve the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important the funding from The Lynn Sage Foundation is for our lab. It funds our most innovative and most daring work. For example, we're developing a technology that leverages the dramatic reduction in the cost of DNA sequencing to map gene-drug interactions at an unprecedented throughput. We are using this to address a simple, but important question: Why do some cancers respond to treatments, while other do not?

“Using genome engineering allows us to switch on and off any one of the approximately 25,000 genes encoded in our genome. We use DNA sequencing to read DNA barcodes (unique labels that are encoded in the DNA itself) that mark the particular gene we are toggling in individual cells. We grow these distinct cells in complex pools in the presence or absence of different drugs (or other conditions). After treatment, we can isolate and use sequencing to read the DNA barcodes to learn how each gene affected the growth of the cancer cells during exposure to each drug. This allows us to conduct tens of thousands of experiments simultaneously. Our initial application of this technology is to turn on or off different components of the stress response machinery, but we eventually aim to expand this study to include additional genes and mutations found in cancer.”

Managing a laboratory dedicated to one of the world’s largest problems is challenging. Modern technology is thankfully escalating the pace of research by increasing both the number of experiments that can be undertaken, and the speed with which they are analyzed. This requires a sophisticated team with diverse skill sets.

“Our work is heavily dependent on bioinformatics. Our experimental approaches generate massive amounts of data. Each one of our experiments can result in 50,000 to 1.5 million data points depending on the experiment. We use this data to generate hypotheses and interrogate the seemingly infinite amount of data that is publicly available.

“I am very fortunate to have a fantastic and dedicated team that I truly enjoy working with. This team includes one PhD student, two MD/PhD students, two postdoctoral fellows, and a PhD-level lab manager. I find it difficult to articulate how satisfying it is to work with brilliant people to address important problems. It is truly wonderful. We are also fortunate to be a part of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics. This department is dedicated to state-of-the-art molecular research and comprises brilliant and welcoming scientists and clinicians who are committed to their research, collaboration, and making an impact on the treatment of human diseases.

Dr. Mendillo’s team extends beyond his lab and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at Northwestern Lurie Cancer Center. His curious and generous spirit led him to a wonderful collaboration of Lynn Sage Scholars.

“Through The Lynn Sage Foundation, I have gotten to know Drs. Horiuchi and Vassilopoulos – fantastic breast cancer biologists located in different departments at Northwestern. We met at a Lynn Sage Foundation event and realized we have common research interests and complementary areas of expertise. Our collaboration is just getting started and I’m excited about where it is going!”

“I can’t emphasize enough how grateful we are to The Lynn Sage Foundation, and all its supporters. The level of commitment you have for cancer research and raising funds to support this work is truly inspiring. It leaves me with an immediate and immense human connection and responsibility for the work we are doing. It serves as a reminder of the importance and high expectations the community has for our work.”

Your support funds the ground-breaking discoveries of Dr. Mendillo. Please include the Lynn Sage Scholars in your year-end giving and support their innovative anti-cancer research. We look forward to updating you on their progress.

Dr. Mendillo Lab Tour
Dr. Mendillo Lab Tour
Lynn Sage Scholars
Lynn Sage Scholars


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Dr. Horiuchi Lab
Dr. Horiuchi Lab

It is nearly impossible for young researchers with novel theories to receive substantial funding to test and develop a track record.  The Lynn Sage Foundation provides seed funding to early career scientists, because we believe new ideas lead to cancer breakthroughs. These brilliant researchers are dedicated to a world without breast cancer. 

Current Lynn Sage Scholar, Dr. Horiuchi, has an impressive biography, but his passion to improve the lives of breast cancer patients truly inspires us. 

“I had an opportunity to give a “research-in-progress” talk at UCSF when I was completing my postdoctoral fellowship. A patient, probably in her late 20’s or early 30’s, and her mother asked me some questions after my presentation. They wanted to know how long it would take the targeted therapeutic strategy that I had just presented to be extended to patients as an experimental therapy. I said five to seven years if everything goes well. Her response was, ‘Well, I probably don’t have that time.’

How I felt on that day, which I still remember distinctly, is the primary reason I’ve stayed in breast cancer research.”

Patient relationships helped motivate Dr. Horiuchi to focus his lab on one of the most challenging sub-types of breast cancer, triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).

“Clinicians still face a significant number of breast cancer patients who either do not respond well to existing therapies or eventually experience a recurrence of tumors resistant to therapies to which they previously responded. These are the cases reflected by a breast cancer-related mortality rate that has not substantially improved over the past decade. This is particularly true for patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), one of the breast cancer subtypes with the poorest clinical outcome.

The primary goal of our research is to understand the biological mechanisms that differentiate those triple-negative tumors that can be cured or clinically managed from those that progress to fatality, and to identify life-saving therapeutic strategies specifically for patients with the deadly forms of TNBC. Our ultimate goal is to identify ways to reduce breast cancer-related mortality rates significantly.

Unfortunately, knowing what to investigate and how to do it is not enough in today’s funding climate. Researchers like Dr. Horiuchi need someone to take a chance on their theories.

“Federal funding agencies strongly encourage us to stick to the specific field of study in which we were originally trained (i.e., if you were trained as a chemist, you could not attempt to become a biologist). The support from The Lynn Sage Foundation has enabled me, who is not a trained immunologist, to recruit immunologist researchers and collaborators to my team to initiate an exciting brand new breast cancer immuno-oncology project. We hope to present compelling and impactful research data and build a track record of productivity in breast cancer immuno-oncology research. All of which will help us competitively secure federal funding.

 One year into our grant, we now have a significantly refined set of questions under investigation along with a more precise plan to set our research apart from other immuno-oncology research. I will evaluate our effort based on whether our findings contribute to generating new therapeutic agents and help move novel therapeutic strategies into clinical testing. This is easier said than done. Ultimately, I will assess our contribution to breast cancer research based on how we contribute to the most critical goal of significantly lowering the mortality rates associated with TNBC.”

Keeping this ultimate goal in mind, the young woman who approached Dr. Horiuchi at UCSF is never far from his thoughts. He welcomes all opportunities to connect with both breast cancer patients and advocates, and encourages his colleagues to do the same.

 "I embrace the opportunity to interact with and give informal talks to breast cancer advocates and the patients they support. Not only do advocates connect us with patients but they also support our efforts to compete for research funding and present research findings at national conferences. They are essential in educating us lab researchers on what it means to be diagnosed with breast cancer and to live with it as a patient.

Dr. Horiuchi is an eager participant at Lynn Sage Foundation events for this very reason. But Dr. Horiuchi’s connections at these functions haven’t been limited to advocates and sponsors. The Foundation also helped him develop relationships with fellow Lynn Sage Scholars Drs. Mendillo and Vassilopoulos.

 “Translating laboratory findings into clinical testing requires a highly orchestrated team effort involving all the concerned parties. I am fortunate to have connected with the former and present Lynn Sage Scholars at Northwestern, Drs. Athanasios Vassilopoulos and Marc Mendillo, through The Lynn Sage Foundation events. This resulted not only in their participation in our lab’s efforts to understand biological mechanisms of drug action and resistance but also our recent securing of  significant research funding from the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.”

 The Department of Defense’s highly competitive grant of $1.185 million was only awarded to 6.5% of all applicants. This collaboration is the epitome of what the Lynn Sage Scholars program was designed to accomplish. And not surprisingly, it only fuels Dr. Horiuchi’s passion to continue his ground-breaking research.

“I am prepared to do whatever it takes to promote impactful discoveries at a rate that is currently unattainable!”

We need your support to continue funding the future discoveries of Lynn Sage Scholars like Dr. Horiuchi.  Please give to The Lynn Sage Foundation in support of all men and women facing a breast cancer diagnosis. 

Horiuchi Lab Tour 2018
Horiuchi Lab Tour 2018
Drs. Horiuch, Mendillo, and Vassilopoulos
Drs. Horiuch, Mendillo, and Vassilopoulos


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Drs. Mendillo & Horiuchi at Summer Toast
Drs. Mendillo & Horiuchi at Summer Toast

Dear friends,

We hope you are enjoying summer with your friends and loved ones!  The Lynn Sage Foundation recently celebrated summer at our Associate Board’s Summer Toast.  It was a fabulous night honoring current Lynn Sage Scholars, Drs. Horiuchi and Mendillo.  In two short hours, we raised $20,000 for innovative breast cancer research!  We are very grateful for each supporter and sponsor of this fun annual event. 

Meanwhile, The Lynn Sage Foundation is gearing up for a busy fall.  

  • In September, we will visit Dr. Horiuchi’s laboratory to learn more about his inspiring work with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, which is the sub-type with the poorest clinical outcome. 
  • Beginning October 1st continuing all month, we will celebrate the 11th annual Chicago’s In Good Taste at 200 restaurants in and around Chicago. 
  • We can't wait to cheer on Team Lynn Sage as they rock the Chicago Marathon on October 7th
  • On October 14th, our furry friends will walk to improve the lives of everyone diagnosed with breast cancer. 
  • Finally, we will enjoy our favorite party of the year, CHILL, at the LuxeHome showrooms on Thursday, November 8th

Please join us for one or more upcoming events in support of the Lynn Sage Scholars program and innovative breast cancer research.  We look forward to seeing you and personally thanking you!

Warm regards,

Laura & Halee

2018 Summer Toast Associate Board
2018 Summer Toast Associate Board
Dr. Horiuchi Summer Toast 2018
Dr. Horiuchi Summer Toast 2018
2018 Summer Toast
2018 Summer Toast
2018 Summer Toast 2
2018 Summer Toast 2


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Maysem and her mother, Azhar
Maysem and her mother, Azhar

Mother's Day is quite important to The Lynn Sage Foundation and its supporters.  Maysem is grateful to be able to celebrate with her mom this May.  She recalls her mother's aggressive treatment for breast cancer and why she connected with the The Lynn Sage Foundation.  

“We were living in Baghdad in the early ‘90s when my mother found a lump. Treatment at that place and time was completely different from what we’re used to today. It was only after my mother’s complete mastectomy that they realized she had Stage 1 cancer. They took so much out that to this day, one of her arms is bigger than the other. It’s a painful reminder twenty-five years later that less aggressive treatment could have been just as effective.”

Maysem was only six-years-old at the time and her mother, Azhar, was 43.  That experience propelled Maysem, as an adult, to seek out an organization devoted to breast cancer research, including improved treatment options. 

She found The Lynn Sage Foundation and learned about the Lynn Sage Scholars working to change the outcome of a devastating diagnosis like breast cancer.

"Once I was older and had moved back to the States, I understood the difference in treatments and know there could have been other options for her."

Research has shown many sub-types of breast cancer, each with a different treatment protocol. There's no "one size fits all" when it comes to breast cancer, which is quite different from Azhar's experience. Maysem's hope is that women like her mom, whose lack of options may be compounded by cultural stigmas, will be motivated to learn more about the various treatments available.

"My mom was so fortunate because we have a big family that includes doctors. In our culture during that time, you would never look outside your family for support. Most people wouldn't even have gotten their lump checked."

Maysem explains that in many cultures, even today, people won't admit they're sick. "People will keep their social commitments and pretend it isn't happening. It's disappointing, shocking, and scary that their health doesn't come first."

Lack of awareness and medical access, pride, and fear may all play a role in preventing women from fully understanding their unique diagnosis and treatment options. Maysem is sharing her family's experience because it was their support network that made her mother's survival possible.

"Wherever you are in the world, you need a support system to get through this. My mom is so fortunate to have noticed her lump and be able to turn to her family for help. Over twenty years later, she's healthy but still gets uncomfortable with the details. As a society -- in Baghdad, Chicago, or anywhere else -- we have to be open and unafraid to talk about our bodies and, specifically, breast cancer. It's the only way we can find the answers for our best treatment options."

This Mother's Day please support the Lynn Sage Scholars, innovative researchers working everyday to change the trajectory of breast cancer. Their work will ultimately help all mothers, sisters, aunts, and daughters access the least invasive, most effective, and individualized treatment.

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Jan Team Lynn Sage 2017
Jan Team Lynn Sage 2017

Dear Friends, 

If your spring goals include embracing the better weather on the running path, please consider joinging Team Lynn Sage in the Chicago Spring Half-Marathon and 10k on Sun. May 20th.   We think you'll find inspiration from Jan, an inagural member of Team Lynn Sage in 2016.   Jan’s heart and passion for running to raise breast cancer research funds bring incredible energy and motivation to all her team members. 

“I have been participating in Breast Cancer walks/runs for 8 years, always as part of a team, so when Team Lynn Sage was created I was just thrilled to be a part of it.  Running is not easy for me, I often joke that I am not built for speed, but I enjoy the challenge and the sense of accomplishment that comes from raising funds for such an important cause, and pushing myself to achieve both fundraising and personal performance goals.”

Since Jan was introduced to The Lynn Sage Foundation several years ago, she has gone from volunteer to Board member to the top fundraiser on Team Lynn Sage. 

“I loved the fact that this foundation was created and is led by the family of Lynn Sage and I appreciate the focus on raising funds for cancer research. I started volunteering in my spare time and when Laura invited me to join the board, I was honored.  Like many, my friends and family have been impacted by breast cancer, as well as many other forms of cancer. Because of that, cancer research is where I want my efforts to be focused.”

And Jan is very focused. Over the past two years, she has raised over $2,200 as part of Team Lynn Sage. Her energy and enthusiasm for each race are contagious.

“Race day with Team Lynn Sage is a super-energizing experience.  It's great to have people on the same team encouraging one another, and I am always proud to wear my Team Lynn Sage t-shirt."

“The first year, my mom, Ilene, was visiting Chicago and came to cheer me on.  Everyone was so friendly and welcoming to her and Angie gave her a t-shirt to represent Team Lynn Sage.  My mom was going to walk the 5k course, but ran it instead because (in her words), ‘I realized how long it would take if I walked the whole thing, so I started running and just kept going!’ With no training at all, she finished 3rd in her age class.  She is my hero!”

Jan is a hero to many in her own right.  She has a gift for making the difficult appear easy, whether it’s completing a race or requesting donations. Jan is the first to share that asking people for money wasn’t always easy for her. As social media has grown over her eight years of racing, it’s widened her network and made this sometimes uncomfortable task a lot easier.

“I set a challenging goal for myself and use every platform available — Facebook, Instagram, email.  I start early and keep my posts entertaining or inspirational.  For example, I use #runferrisrun as one of my hashtags, so periodically a running Forrest Gump shows up in a post just for fun. Using Facebook, I received donations from people who aren’t local and wouldn’t otherwise have known I was running or raising funds for breast cancer research. People are so generous. I guarantee if you cast a wide net, ask early and often, and let everyone know you are raising funds for breast cancer research, you will be surprised. You’ll receive donations from people you would never have even thought to ask!"

"This year, people responded positively to weekly training run posts that included my fundraising link. I think it’s in part because people know how hard this running thing is for me. I try to remind them (and myself when I consider skipping a training day) that running isn't hard. Fighting breast cancer, or having a friend or family member who is fighting breast cancer, is HARD. And it’s life-changing. Running a 5K isn’t always fun, and it’s a little uncomfortable for me, but I get to have brunch once I finish. It is nothing compared to what cancer patients, survivors, and their families go through.

Through my runs, I’ve raised over $8,000 for breast cancer research, including over $2,200 these last two years with Team Lynn Sage.  To me, every donation counts and every step is a step toward a cure.  My goal is to hit the $10,000 mark this year!” 

If you’re interested in running with Team Lynn Sage or helping Jan reach her goal, please contact us at  We'd love to support your effort to end breast cancer!

Jan & Mom TLS 2016
Jan & Mom TLS 2016
Team 2017
Team 2017


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Organization Information

Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @lynnsage
Project Leader:
Gret Luhrs
Chicago, IL United States
$112,303 raised of $1,000,000 goal
1,590 donations
$887,697 to go
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