My Why: Megan Barry, BS

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Megan Barry, center, with her grandparents, Mauro "Butch" Barry and Carol Barry.

Megan Barry was only 9 years old when her grandfather, Mauro “Butch” Barry, died of prostate cancer in November 2007. She didn’t really understand the disease. But she wasn’t too young to make a promise to her grandmother, Carol Barry.

“I remember having a conversation with her in my grandparent’s living room,” recalls Megan. “She said, ‘You should become a doctor or a professional who helps people who had the same thing that Grandpa had so other kids don’t have to lose their grandfathers.’”  

Even with no knowledge of the illness that took her grandfather’s life, Megan agreed.

Keeping her word

“Growing up I was obsessed with science however I was never really focused on a career in cancer research,” says Megan, who obtained her bachelor’s degree in biology from Medaille University.

That was until she was invited to attend the Summer Research Program in Cancer Science at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2019. The hospital’s multidisciplinary focus provides students with a unique immersion in cancer science that impacts advancement of cancer healthcare and delivery, an experience students won’t find anywhere else.

“The Summer Research Program was amazing because we got to be productive members of a lab. We saw first-hand how research is conducted and actually performed experiments ourselves,” says Megan. “But what I think really sealed the deal for me was that I got to experience what it was like to be a part of the dynamic Roswell Park environment and see how everyone really has the same goal  — to save as many people as possible and work towards finding cures for cancer.”

Working to make a difference

Now a Laboratory Technician in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Megan assists Hai Wang, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology, with research to decipher the molecular mechanisms underlying the progression of bone metastasis in breast and prostate cancers.

Her duties include growing and maintaining cell cultures, performing experiments, analyzing data and handling basic lab maintenance. Megan also serves as manager for the lab.

“There is no cure for bone metastasis right now,” says Megan. “And in the end, that is how my grandfather died. I didn’t find out until my father told me when I got this job.”

Unfortunately, Megan’s grandmother, Carol, a breast cancer survivor, died only five weeks after her husband, making the promise Megan made to her even more resolute.

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“When I was hired for this job, I had no idea which types of cancers were being researched in the lab,” says Megan. “To say it was meant to be that I am doing this type of work is an understatement.”

She can’t help but wonder if her grandfather were diagnosed today and had access to Roswell Park’s most advanced treatments, including clinical trials of the latest therapies, if he would have had a different outcome.  

But instead of looking back, Megan is focused on the future.

“What keeps me going is knowing that more cures will be found, there will be better treatment plans, better procedures and fewer patients will have negative outcomes from cancer,” says Megan. “Specifically, prostate and breast cancer, because they are close to my family, but everyone here at Roswell Park has the same goal  ̶  to help patients survive cancer.”