Years after protesting the Vietnam War in college, Dr. Richard Love couldn’t get images of the conflict out of his mind.
The breast cancer specialist visited Vietnam in 1991 and two years later formed the International Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
The Madison-based nonprofit conducts clinical research in Vietnam, the Philippines and other developing countries ill equipped to do such research. It also has opened breast care clinics in Bangladesh.
Love, who worked at UW-Madison until leaving for Ohio State University in 2005 while continuing to live in Madison, retired this year.
The foundation’s first clinical trial in Vietnam looked at alternatives to chemotherapy, which Love said isn’t widely available in some developing countries. Women receiving breast cancer surgery, who also had their ovaries removed and took the drug tamoxifen, remained cancer free longer than those who didn’t take those two steps.
The benefit appeared greatest when the surgery was done in the second half of the women’s menstrual cycle, a finding now being examined further.
Such research is hard to conduct in the U.S., Love said, because “the chemotherapy and pharmaceutical worlds own breast cancer treatment here.”
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In Bangladesh, the foundation opened four clinics and hopes to start a radiation therapy center.
Communicable diseases such as cholera aren’t as prevalent in the country as they used to be, Love said. So people are living longer, and more are getting cancer.
But with no health insurance system, the country “is completely unprepared,” he said.
Love was unprepared for what happened after women first came to his clinics: Most didn’t return for follow-up visits, and some committed suicide.
“They were being ostracized because they had breast cancer. Before, they had been hiding it,” he said.
He realized he couldn’t just treat women; he needed to help empower them. He helped two women establish a computer center in a rural village.
Now the women are organizing a bicycle parade to raise awareness of breast cancer.