Republished with permission from the BC Cancer Foundation
Laurie Rix lost her husband Neil Macrae in 2017 to breast cancer – a disease largely associated with women.
In 2015, the well-known Vancouver sportscaster noticed a lump inside his breast that was the size of a golf ball. After showing his wife, she suggested getting it looked at by a doctor.
The diagnosis shocked them both. Male breast cancer: A rare form that will affect more than 200 men in Canada this year.
“When he was diagnosed, it was Stage III, so he had to have a mastectomy followed by radiation,” said Laurie.
His oncologist at BC Cancer, Dr. Karen Gelmon, found through genetic analysis that Neil had the BRCA2 mutation. A gene widely known today as the “breast cancer gene,” it also puts men at higher risk for getting other cancers, like prostate, which Neil later developed.
Through this analysis, Neil’s oncologist was able to tailor a treatment plan based on his genetic mutation.
he would go on to face a third type of cancer before passing away in 2017 at age 65.
“Scientists at BC Cancer are working to identify mutations and risks earlier, with the hopes of preventing cancers like breast, for both women and men,” says Laurie. “Neil would want all men to know that they are at risk for this disease, too.”
The Rix family has a long history with BC Cancer and its world-renowned Genome Sciences Centre. In addition to losing her husband, Laurie also lost her father, Dr. Donald Rix, to tongue cancer in 2009.
Dr. Rix was the first-ever Personalized Onco-Genomics Program participant – “Patient X” – who helped fund the project and would become the first person in the world to have gene sequencing completed to analyze and inform cancer treatment.
His belief in the science of genetic sequencing and his advocacy for it to play a role in treatment initiated a tidal shift in the way cancer is being treated today.
His willingness to take part in the first study has led to the enrollment of more than 1,068 patients in the program to date and the publishing of 25 research papers.
The Rix Family Foundation generously supported the program at the foundation’s 2014 Inspiration Gala with a gift of $1.5 million, and in 2017, Laurie donated $500,000 to establish the Neil Macrae Hereditary Cancer Research Fund.
October is breast cancer awareness month. You can help change outcomes for women and men facing breast cancer in B.C. To learn more, contact Alyson Killam at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-877-6160.