Family speaks about Henrietta Lacks' legacy at UIC panel

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Henrietta Lacks is the woman whose cancer cells paved the way for pioneering medical research, and Friday her family spoke about the importance of her legacy.

Family members joined health experts at the University of Illinois - Chicago for a panel discussion focusing on safeguarding public trust in research.

The use of Lacks' cancer cells led to the discovery of chemotherapy, the polio vaccine and genetic mapping.

Lacks was a black woman who died in 1951. She was never asked if her cells could be used for research, nor was she paid. Her family did not know of her historic cell line until 1975.

"Her family never even knew that their mom had made such a great contribution to science, the world," said Shirley Lacks, daughter-in-law of Henrietta Lacks.

Lacks' story was made into a book and an HBO movie starring Oprah Winfrey.