The MBC Alliance celebrates the life and work of member Anne Loeser, who passed away on October 10, 2023 at the age of 70. Anne, who lived with metastatic breast cancer for 12 years, touched the lives of many through her determined advocacy for patient-centered care, increased focus on research, and better quality of life.
An extraordinary leader and Summa Cum Laude graduate from City College of NY, Anne’s expertise ranged from overseeing multimillion-dollar software development projects to surprise birthday parties. Keenly intelligent and with a mischievous sense of humor, she had a special way of making everyone around her feel cherished. But perhaps her most powerful attribute was her ability and passion to help others.
Diagnosed with MBC in 2011, Anne’s symptoms had first surfaced four years prior and were misdiagnosed by multiple doctors. With resilience and determination, she made it her mission to help others learn more about the disease and avoid similar diagnostic pitfalls. In 2019, she published her book The Insider’s Guide to Metastatic Breast Cancer, which has helped thousands of patients and caregivers worldwide to navigate the disease. To connect all patients with accurate, up-to-date information irrespective of their location and ability to pay, Anne made frequent updates to the book and offered it as a free download on her own website and through MBCAlliance.org.
After witnessing patients suffer from treatment-related side effects resulting from excessive drug toxicities, Anne founded the Patient-Centered Dosing Initiative (PCDI) in 2019 and shared the results of a patient survey about the damage resulting from treatment-related side effects at the annual ASCO meeting in Chicago. This precipitated the FDA to move away from the concept of maximizing oncology drug toxicity in favor of identifying more tolerable and effective doses.
For colleagues like Dr. Mirat Shah and Dr. Atik Rahman, who lead Project Optimus – an initiative through the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence to reform dose optimization and selection in the development of oncology drugs – Anne was a valued and admired force in their common mission of improving standard of care and quality of life for people living with metastatic breast cancer.
“You are such a guiding light for everyone around you, including patients, patient advocates, researchers and regulators,” wrote the doctors in a note to Anne. “You are a role model for how to be graceful and persistent at the same time. Your presentation at ASCO on treatment-related side effects was the clarion call, and change is finally happening.”
In February 2023, the PCDI was incorporated as a project under the MBC Alliance’s Clinical Care Working Group, ensuring that the initiative will continue and grow its impact and reach, including sharing resources with patients with other types of cancer.
A member of the Alliance since 2014, Anne found time to serve as an active participant of the Alliance’s Research Task Force and a beta tester for key projects like the MBC Connect patient experience registry, which connects researchers to data and people living with MBC to clinical trials; and the Alliance’s new interactive website, including a searchable library of programs and resources for the MBC community.
And, despite her boundless energy for patient advocacy, Anne never failed to find time for the most important things in life. She loved camping in the magnificent desert of Southern Utah or watching the sea on a cruise; and peaceful moments with her husband of 48 years, Steve, and her cherished 29-year old parrot Pumpkin.
Blessed with a copious amount of love in her life, loving and being loved were of paramount importance to Anne. She expressed no regrets and, toward the end, wrote, “I’ve tied up the colorful ribbons of my life into a beautiful bow upon which I’m ready to rest.”
“Anne was kind, collaborative, shared with all, and was so dedicated,” said Dr. Hope Rugo, Director of Breast Oncology Clinical Trials Education at UCSF and a member of the PCDI Advisory Board. “She faced her disease and looming mortality with such grace and courage. I had the most amazing conversations with her, and learned so much.”
“Anne was a force and determined to make things better for the next generation,” added Dr. Aditya Bardia, Director of the Breast Cancer Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and a member of the PCDI Advisory Board. “She changed how we think about drug dosing for patients with breast cancer, and the whole field owes a lot to her. She will be missed.”
We are deeply grateful to Anne for her dedication, insight and crucial contributions to change the outcomes and experiences of people living with metastatic breast cancer. Her legacy and work will live on and continue to benefit countless lives.