Breast cancer survivor supports further advances with Ronald and Rosanne Rogé Innovation Fund

From the start of her treatment at Stony Brook Cancer Center, Rosanne Rogé knew that her journey from breast cancer patient to breast cancer survivor wasn’t only about her.

“In the beginning,” Rosanne said, “they asked me if they could use my breast tissue for research, and I said of course. Think about the women who went through this before me and who volunteered for breast cancer research, that eventually helped me. In respect for those women, I need to pay it forward.”

Now, Rosanne and her husband, Ron, are doing their part to advance breast cancer research at Stony Brook through the Ronald and Rosanne Rogé Breast Cancer Innovation Fund. The Fund is designed to give the Breast Cancer program’s leadership the ability and flexibility to incubate and accelerate discoveries, translate seed funding into sustainable funding for researchers’ projects, and acquire cutting edge technology to further advance breast cancer research.

“The fact that Rosanne Rogé is now cancer-free is a testament to what Stony Brook doctors are capable of today,” said Dr. Yusuf Hannun, Stony Brook Medicine’s Vice Dean for Cancer Medicine, Joel Strum Kenny Professor in Cancer Research, and Director of the Stony Brook Cancer Center. “The philanthropic support we receive from Rosanne, Ron, and our other donors makes the difference in what we’ll be capable of tomorrow.”

Among the projects that the Rogé Breast Cancer Innovation Fund will support are immunotherapy for early stage breast cancer treatment, novel PET radio tracer development for breast cancer imaging, and patient-derived tumor models that will allow doctors to understand why some tumors are resistant to the best therapies currently in use. These projects will enable researchers to develop new therapies to save lives and make existing therapies more effective.

“What we’re using the gift for is to fund pilot projects,” said Dr. Allison Stopeck, one of the Stony Brook doctors who treated Rosanne. “These are good ideas that initially don’t have any funding, because you can’t submit a major grant proposal without preliminary data. We’re using this money to obtain the early data you need to prove that your hypothesis has scientific rationale, and can be tested, and then use that data to apply for bigger grants.”

For the Rogés, seeing the passion that Stony Brook doctors, like Dr. Stopeck, have for their work makes their gift even more meaningful.

“Ron has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry. He loves scientific and technological innovation.  So, when I go to see Dr. Stopeck,” Rosanne said, the two of them start talking about all of her research findings first, and I’m sitting there in the gown going, ‘Hello! I’m over here!’ She is so excited to share what they’ve done and what they’re continuing to do.”

And, having already completed her own treatments, Rosanne knows the level of excellence that Stony Brook doctors are building upon.

“Whenever I had to go there for treatments or follow-ups,” Rosanne said, “I never had any fear. After I met my breast surgeon, Dr. O’Hea, and made my appointments, his associate, Laura Vogily, said to me, ‘Sit back and relax; we’re going to take good care of you. Don’t worry.’ Those were the most amazing words I heard. While I was concerned, I had no fear after that. None.”

That feeling stayed with Rosanne all the way to her final day of treatment.

“The last day of chemo,” she said, “all the nurses walk out with you to the waiting room, where there are people who are waiting to go in for treatment. They escort you to this bell, and you ring the bell to celebrate the completion of your chemo. It was just, ‘Oh my God, it’s done.’ They all stood there, and they all cheered, and the people who were waiting for chemo stood up and cheered as well. I looked at them and said, ‘You are all going to be able to ring this bell one day too, because these folks are going to take such wonderful care of you, and you will have no fear.”

And now, the Rogés’ will be a part of helping future Stony Brook breast cancer patients reach that bell as well.

Photo Caption: Rosanne Rogé and her husband, Ron, are funding new explorations in breast cancer treatment through the Ronald and Rosanne Rogé Breast Cancer Innovation Fund.