Super Bowl Host Committee announces Indy's Super Cure

Traci Runge celebrates completion of her cancer treatment.
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INDIANAPOLIS - The Super Bowl Host Committee is using its power to help make a cure for breast cancer happen.

The committee launched a new project called Indy's Super Cure. The idea is to promote the only breast cancer tissue bank in the world, which is in Indianapolis at the IU Simon Cancer Center.

Researchers from all over the world use the tissue. Now the tissue bank has a rare and precious donation that some people believe could be the key to a cure.

That donation came from a Carmel mother, Traci Runge. She says she gave so others could avoid her fate.

"A year and a half ago, 15 months ago, I didn't think this day would ever come," she said.

It's a milestone moment for Tracie Runge - her last day of chemotherapy. When it's wrapped up, she will celebrate like those before her by sounding the freedom bell in her doctor's office.

"I can't wait to ring that bell today," said Runge, who said it signifies "completion. It's like the biggest fight of your life has been this because you fight for them and you know, here I am. So, 15 months and I'm just going to ring it because now I am a mom to my daughters and they didn't lose me, but I didn't lose them. That is what that bells means. I am still here," said Runge.

We've chronicled Runge's journey. A mother to three girls, Runge was first diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in March 2010.

"The pain, you are just in so much pain and no can fathom how badly you hurt," she said.

Her calendar soon filled with appointments for chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.

"In Traci's case while she had a very large tumor she also had a very aggressive bio-marker profile," said Dr. Ruemu Birhiray, St. Vincent oncologist.

Pre-operative chemo and surgery was a success and Runge got stronger. She started training for the race that the cancer had delayed.

"I'll do my first triathlon. It might not be for another year or two. It might not be as fast, but that is okay," she said.

But squeezing in early morning training, sometimes even before chemo, wasn't easy.

"I've had many tearful times I've broken down and I've cried," she said. "And then it's like, okay, Traci, put on your big girl pants and stop moping."

Then, exactly a year after her diagnosis, Runge completed a 400-meter swim, 10-mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run.

It's her journey, one representative of so many others, with a sizable exception. Four years before Runge was diagnosed, she donated her healthy tissue to the IU Simon Cancer Center Tissue Bank for Research in honor of a friend. Then she came back again and donated days after she was diagnosed.

"I explained that I now have breast cancer and would like to donate that cancerous tissue before my first treatment," she said.

That combination of tissue believed to be the first of its kind is considered a gold mine for finding a cure.

"In cancer research we always look at what we think is the obvious answer. Typically you look at cancer itself or look at a tumor itself to find out who is responding. But why did the cancer develop in the first place? What is so different between the cancer and a normal breast?" said Dr. Birhiray. "When you compare and if you can understand what is biologically different between the two then probably you could conquer cancer,

because maybe you could turn the clock backwards."

Runge's story now could make headlines. She's now attracting camera crews and attention from the Super Bowl Host Committee, organizing a fall fundraiser to raise the $250,000 needed to test Runge's samples, which are so precious they are stored in multiple sites around the country as a precaution.

Runge rang the freedom bell along with her doctor and family, and they all shared hugs and tears.

Maybe Traci Runge's journey means for everyone that a cure is closer. Her last chemo treatment and the celebration was on Tuesday.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed breast cancer is diagnosed in individuals with no family history. African American women have fewer chances of developing breast cancer than caucasian women, but are more likely to die from it.