Colleagues to celebrate a pioneer in cancer research

Carbone dance party honors Dr. Patti Keely

For more than twenty years Dr. Patti Keely has directed research into breast cancer from her lab at the UW Carbone Cancer Center. During that time, she has also dealt with the reality of cancer.

As a 21-year-old college student, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. She was treated with radiation and when the cancer returned a few years later, she underwent chemotherapy. The experience initially pointed her life away from cancer research.

“At the time, I went to graduate school; I had absolutely no desire to work in cancer. I wanted nothing to do with it. I had enough of it,” said Dr. Keely.

She eventually did return to cancer research, but cancer returned to her – twice.

“Then it was hit home much more strongly when 11 years ago I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.”

Through the surgery and treatments, Dr. Keely continued to guide the breast cancer research in her lab. The strength she shows is not lost on those who work with her.

“When you have a mentor that has been going through the things she has, it gives you an extra step of motivation,” said Joseph Szulczewski, a Ph.D. candidate who works with Dr. Keely.

After being diagnosed three times with cancer, in January the cancer returned again. She was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.

She is now enrolled in a clinical trial in an effort to save her life. But she is also very aware her participation in the clinical trial may improvement treatments for cancer patients in the future.

“The last couple of experiences with cancer I’ve come to really appreciate the people around me,” said Dr. Keely.

The bond she has with her family, friends and colleagues has been important in her work and in dealing with cancer.

On the night of April 29 they will all come together to celebrate the achievements of Dr. Keely, and their friendship.

“During Patti’s episodes with cancer she always wanted to have a party when she was feeling good because she just enjoys having people around her and celebrating life,” said Suzanne Ponik, a scientist who works with Dr. Keely.

“I think the idea is to celebrate and recognize things while I’m here,” said Dr. Keely.

The Carbone dance party to celebrate Patti Keely will be held at 7 p.m. on April 29 at the Madison Elks Lodge. All proceeds from this event, which is open to the public, will go the Carbone Cancer Center.

If you are unable to attend, but would like to make a donation you can do so here: