Duke IBC Consortium Expands Community Footprint, Students Take Lead

IBC tabling at Duke
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Photo, courtesy of Gayathri Devi (center in green)

A research group at the Duke Cancer Institute is working to expand its community footprint, with students taking the lead.

The Duke Consortium for Inflammatory Breast Cancer aims to improve diagnosis and treatment of the aggressive form of breast cancer through research and education. The group, which originated in the lab of Program Director Gayathri Devi, first met in December 2014 and in recent months has begun more public-facing efforts, including podcast appearances and the formation of a student organization.

“What started as a small seed grant from Duke University School of Medicine dean’s office to form interdisciplinary colloquium dinner meetings to attract faculty, advocates and staff from Duke and local universities led to a nationally and internationally recognized [Duke consortium] with collaborations with international IBC investigators,” Devi, also an associate professor in surgery, wrote in a statement.

Inflammatory breast cancer accounts for 10% of all breast cancer deaths in the United States, with a five-year survival rate of only 35 to 40 percent, according to the Consortium for IBC. Due to its rarity and the fact that it manifests with redness, swelling, pain and other skin changes in the breast, IBC is commonly misdiagnosed. Patients may be erroneously prescribed antibiotics or told to wait and see if symptoms worsen, which delays care.

In the eight years since the consortium’s inception, it has fostered cross-departmental and cross-institutional collaboration, allowing students to engage with patient advocates, caregivers and leaders of advocacy foundations, Devi wrote.

The lab operates on the “benchside to community and back” model, in which the community is kept abreast of ongoing research and their feedback is taken into account.

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