Kimberly Koss: Mason doctor who delayed chemotherapy to research her own cancer dies

Posted at 9:20 PM, Oct 06, 2016

MASON, Ohio -- Kimberly Koss, a decorated medical researcher who postponed breast cancer treatment for herself in order to develop better treatments for others, died Sept. 30

WCPO was one of many news outlets that last year covered Koss’ efforts to understand "triple negative breast cancer," a cancer known to resist oncologists' usual silver bullets. Its resistance to estrogen-, progesterone- and HER2-based treatments makes it one of the most difficult forms of cancer to treat, and it spreads and mutates so aggressively that few doctors have been able to perform in-depth research on triple-negative cancer cells.

And when conventional remedies fail, people like Koss, who was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in April 2014, are subjected to a far more grueling regiment of treatment than many other cancer patients.

"(With) triple-negative ... we’re forced to use very, very toxic therapeutic agents (that will) also kill the normal cells in your body," said Koss’ friend and colleague Keith Jones. “Some oncologists say you have to use enough drug to almost kill the patient to kill the cancer. ... It’s very brutal."


Koss postponed chemotherapy by more than two months after receiving her diagnosis so that she could donate her own cancer-affected cells to science. She also chose to have a double mastectomy surgery before chemo so that her entire tumor, untouched by attempts at treatment, could become a subject of study, according to Yahoo News.

She and Jones founded the Koss National TNBC Research Foundation to pursue research about her rare and deadly condition.

Her dedication to this cause was more than professional: Koss told WCPO that, after her own diagnosis, she realized her female family members could also be at risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer. Her sacrifice was for her own daughter, sister, mother and grandchildren.

"I believe in my heart of hearts in the value of the research," Koss said of her decision to delay treatment. "And I do believe there will be good results -- not good results, but results that allow us to develop treatments."

Koss is survived by her husband, daughter and son, as well as her mother, siblings and six grandchildren, according to her obituary.