Komen Grantee Dr. Chad Pecot: Clinician-Scientist, Husband, Father & Cancer Survivor
Dr. Chad Pecot is an oncologist and Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is also a Komen-funded clinician-scientist. However, he holds other titles that have helped mold him into the person he is today – husband, father, cancer survivor…
While other undergraduate students at the University of Miami were stressing over mid-term papers and final exams, Dr. Pecot was facing a bigger test. At 20 years old, he was diagnosed with stage II testicular cancer. Having no family history of cancer, Dr. Pecot was naïve about cancer altogether, not realizing that a young person like himself could die from the disease. Following the diagnosis, he realized that cancer can hit anyone at any time. He says, “What really scared me, though, was after my surgery I had scans that revealed the cancer had already spread. I think that’s the moment my heart sunk, and from there on my world changed.”
However, he adds, “When I realized something was trying to take my life, I went into fighter mode.” Despite having already spread, Dr. Pecot was fortunate to have a type of cancer that was curable with treatment. He has been in remission since 2001.
Years beyond his cancer diagnosis, after marrying his wife, Irma, Dr. Pecot faced another major challenge – his treatment had decreased his ability to have children. However, once again, he was able to overcome. Fifteen years after his diagnosis, and after 10 years of marriage, he and his wife welcomed their daughter, Mia Sofia, into their family. He says, “Becoming a dad was the real miracle for me.”
While Dr. Pecot was fortunate to have a treatable disease and to live a full life following cancer treatment, many are not so lucky. This is a reality that drives Dr. Pecot today – to make sure all cancer patients have a chance to beat their disease.
After graduating from medical school, Dr. Pecot began his research career studying lung cancer. He has since branched out to the study of breast cancer. Today, with Komen support, he is working to stop the spread (metastasis) of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) through the lymphatic system (lymph nodes).
The most common place breast cancer can be found (outside of the breast) is the lymph node. However, there is still debate on how much the lymphatic system contributes to metastatic breast cancer. The blood stream, not the lymphatic system, is generally accepted as the primary route for cancer to spread.
But, Dr. Pecot says, “We have identified a new way in which cancer may spread through the lymph nodes, as well as a drug that may block this process. My hope is that in a few years we can design clinical trials with compounds we’re testing so that we can one day prevent breast cancer metastasis altogether.”
Whether he is working in the research laboratory or in the clinic alongside patients, Dr. Pecot’s ‘fighter mode’ continues today. He says, “From the time I was diagnosed to the time I was cured, and now as a cancer doctor and researcher, I have tried to use my experience to fuel my work and the patients I care for. I want my patients to know that they’re not in the fight alone. We are a team, and we’ll fight it together.”
Reflecting on his own cancer diagnosis, his advice to cancer patients everywhere: “Be tenacious. Take all the suffering that comes with this disease and turn it into passion, because passion is the seed that will eventually bring cures.”
You can read more about Dr. Pecot here.