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UW doctor splits time researching breast cancer, treating patients

By Michelle Li, mli@wisctv.com
Published On: May 21 2014 09:34:16 PM CDT
Updated On: May 23 2014 01:40:23 PM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

We all know cancer is a hard diagnosis to hear but telling someone is also damaging. 

Dr. Mark Burkard has had to tell his patients that their treatments aren't working or that they can't find the answer they desperately want to hear.  That's why he splits his time between researching how cells divide and treating patients.

Burkard works for the University of Wisconsin as a faculty member for the School of Medicine and Public Health.  When he's in the lab he focuses on how cells divide, since some of the best cancer treatments block cancer cells from dividing.

"It's become very personal," said Burkard.  "It's quite heartbreaking when my patient has a problem with cancer that I can't completely fix."

He was one of a few UW researchers who recently discovered that a popular cancer drug was only working for about half of its users.

"What we discovered, it didn't work the way everyone thought it worked," said Burkard.  "So we think it will give us a hint to see how best to treat it in the future."

One of the challenges is that we are all physically different, so the cancer impacts us in different ways. 

"It's not one cure, it's a little different for each person," said Burkard.  "We have to divide it up and design a strategy to try to cure it for each person."

That is why Race for the Cure is so important to people like Burkard.  The money raised helps aid in research and better treatment. 

"Everyone can make a difference," said Burkard.  "We all want the future to be brighter.  If we get a little bit beyond our comfort zone in trying to help each other and trying to deal with cancer and other things, that can make the world a bright place in the future."

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