Dive into the Pink grant supports Guise, breast cancer researcher and underwater photographer

June 28, 2018

IU School of Medicine breast cancer researcher Theresa Guise, MD, and Allison Vitsky, DVM, have never met. Dr. Guise lives in Indiana, and Dr. Vitsky resides in California. Dr. Guise is a physician, and Dr. Vitsky is a veterinary pathologist. Yet their lives intertwine. Dr. Vitsky is a breast cancer survivor and Dr. Guise, an endocrinologist and researcher at the Vera Bradley Foundation Center for Breast Cancer Research, treats breast cancer patients. In addition to their interest in cancer, the two women share a love for scuba diving and underwater photography.

Both women are accomplished underwater photographers. Dr. Vitsky’s work has been published in books and magazines on diving, marine life and nature photography, and she has been recognized in numerous international underwater photography competitions, as has Dr. Guise.

In 2015, Dr. Vitsky and her husband, Andrew Sallmon, created Dive into the Pink, a nonprofit organization founded to create fundraising events supporting breast cancer research that are “cleverly disguised as diving” opportunities. The initial diving event was more successful than anticipated and as the visibility of the organization increased, Dr. Vitsky asked researchers and other breast cancer organizations to submit grant proposals.

From those, two were selected: Dr. Guise’s lab at the IU Simon Cancer Center and the Young Survival Coalition.

Dr. Vitsky, who was 33 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, wants to support research while helping to improve the patient experience, especially for younger patients.

As part of these efforts, Dr. Guise’s lab received $20,000 to study how breast cancer interacts with the microenvironment of the bone, particularly the fat cells. Fat cells in bone marrow increase with aging, Dr. Guise explained. Her research seeks to reveal the role those fat cells play in bone metastases.

Dr. Guise sees a connection between her research and her passion for underwater photography. “I study the microenvironment in which cancer cells thrive, and how the cancer-host interaction affects surrounding environments,” she said. “The ocean is also filled with unique microenvironments that impact surrounding environments."

For more, read the full feature story.