Left: Stacey, in hat, with her family in Scituate, Mass. Right: Stacey’s family celebrating Thanksgiving in 2022.
Stacey Cross Hugues, a loving daughter, wife, and mom of four, brought fun and enthusiasm to all her endeavors—and she stayed fun, active, and involved in the community throughout her five years of treatment for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), before passing away in April 2023 at age 46.
To honor her legacy and help improve the treatment of TNBC, Stacey’s parents, Sue and Stephen Cross, made a gift to establish the Cross Family Fund for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Under the direction of Sara Tolaney, MD, MPH, chief of the Division of Breast Oncology, and Nancy Lin, MD, director of the Institute’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Program, their gift will support the collection and analysis of triple-negative breast cancer biospecimens.
TNBC is often found in younger women, like Stacey, and is less common than other subtypes of breast cancer. These tumors do not have estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 receptors to target with therapy, and therefore are typically harder to treat and more aggressive.
Stacey had a proactive colonoscopy and mammogram at 40, due to a family history of both colon cancer and breast cancer. Despite not having the BRCA gene, which significantly increases the risk of breast cancer, and Stacey’s initial mammogram not showing a tumor, two months later, she felt a lump, which turned out to be triple-negative breast cancer—the same disease her maternal aunt had died from.
After learning of her diagnosis, Stacey soon began treatment at Dana-Farber’s Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers and initially responded well to treatment, but after two years, another tumor appeared, and it continued to grow over the next three years, spreading to her bones, other organs, and brain.
“Despite aggressive treatments, Stacey amazed everyone with her upbeat, positive attitude; staying active; and posting updates for five years to keep her family and friends up to date on her treatment and progress,” recalls her mom, Sue.
Throughout Stacey’s treatment, her parents looked for ways to get involved and support Stacey and other patients. They learned about how they could help support a biobank led by Dana-Farber, in which patients with triple-negative breast cancer, specifically metastatic patients, would share specimens, including blood, tissues, and stool, for researchers at Dana-Farber and beyond to analyze and deepen their understanding of the molecular drivers and vulnerabilities unique to TNBC. The biobank builds on a registry within the EMBRACE (Ending Metastatic Breast Cancer for Everyone) Program, led by Dana-Farber’s Dr. Lin. The combination of biospecimen data with the genomic and clinical data, and patient-reported outcomes, provides investigators a comprehensive overview of TNBC to develop more durable and less toxic treatments.
Stacey apple picking with her husband and kids in September 2022
“Stacey was one of the earliest partners in the TNBC biobank,” Sue says. “This novel approach accelerates groundbreaking research, but there is a need for funding the infrastructure required to build and maintain the biobank.”
“Our gifts, first in honor and now in memory of our daughter, help fund this effort,” continues Steve, Stacey’s dad. “We appreciate the dedication of the many researchers seeking to understand and discover new therapies for TNBC.”
Beyond participating in the Dana-Farber-led biobank, Stacey stayed active in her community, including at the South Shore YMCA Emilson branch in Hanover, Massachusetts, where she taught yoga and Pilates, played tennis, and was a spokesperson for the YMCA’s Stay Strong program, which supports cancer patients and their families.
When Stacey and her husband, Will, recognized how her cancer continued to advance, they spent the last year making memories for their family, including kids Hannah, Liam, Jack, and Chase. They traveled to Disney World and Martha’s Vineyard, went apple picking and celebrated holidays with family and friends, and, above all, enjoyed every day together.
Although Stacey is no longer with them, the family continues her legacy of community involvement. Over 300 attended a celebration of life to honor Stacey held at the Emilson YMCA, and this month, a yoga studio there will be dedicated and named for her.
“Our daughter was treated for five years by the dedicated doctors, nurses, and staff at Dana-Farber,” Sue reflects. “We thank them all, especially her oncologist, Meredith Faggen, MD, for her compassion and tireless care, and we hope others will contribute to the TNBC biobank to continue accelerating research.”
Help support efforts like these by joining The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign and how you can get involved at DefyCancer.org.