Alexandre Reuben, Ph.D. (right), speaks with Meredith Frank, a graduate research assistant in his lab.
Recently, several RET patients, along with Chris Bricker, whose late wife, Dr. Aliye Bricker, founded RETpositive, connected over Zoom with Dr. Alexandre Reuben, Assistant Professor, Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine lab at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Research Investigator Peixin Jiang, Senior Research Assistant Hui Nie, and Senior Research Scientist Minying Zhang. Each survivor shared their health journey with the lab team, who shared their own personal stories about why they had dedicated their life’s work to developing cancer treatments.
As a scientist, it’s such an honor to interact with the patients and advocates we’re trying to help, said Dr. Reuben. Nothing means more to us and keeps us more focused on developing cancer cures than having the opportunity to meet with them and seeing how much they believe in the work we’re doing.
“I am grateful every day not only that I’m still here, but that I enjoy such a high quality of life thanks to a targeted therapy developed by researchers I’ll likely never meet,” said Emily Walthall, survivor of Stage IV RET+ NSCLC. “But one day, the cancer will develop resistance. Everyone in our community is counting on more research and treatment options. Immunotherapy represents the area of greatest hope for me, because it has the real potential to induce very long-term responses.”
Cancer patients rarely get to meet the researchers developing new treatments for their community. "For me and many other cancer survivors, research means hope,” said Hilary Hammel, also a Stage IV RET+ NSCLC survivor. “It's critical for me to know there are people out there dedicating their lives to developing better treatments for us. Getting to meet the team of researchers reaffirmed that there are people that are passionate about making the world of cancer a better place."
RETpositive is grateful to Dr. Reuben and his team for taking the time to meet with RET survivors and caregivers. We are deeply hopeful and excited about their work, and will keep the RET community updated on their progress.
RETpositive prioritizes research that addresses significant unmet treatment needs by RET patients. The promise of effective immunotherapies constitute one such major unmet need. In 2022, RETpositive, in partnership with the Lungevity Foundation, awarded their first RETpositive/LUNGevity Translational Research Awards for RET-Positive Lung Cancer, which included a two-year, $100,000 award to Dr. Alexandre Reuben, to engineer T-cell receptors for the treatment of RET fusion-positive NSCLC.
Current immune checkpoint inhibitor therapies block immune checkpoints to enable immune cells to kill cancer cells, but they have shown limited or no benefit for most RET patients. Dr. Reuben and his lab seek to shed light on the immune microenvironment landscape of RET-positive lung cancer patients in order to develop more effective immunotherapeutic options. Dr. Reuben hypothesizes that RET fusions give rise to immunogenic antigens that can be effectively recognized and targeted by engineered T-cells.