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Hilary Hammell: Research Saves Lives

Hilary Hammell: Research Saves Lives

In April 2021, Hilary received the devastating diagnosis of incurable stage 4 lung cancer. A genomic test ultimately revealed she had a mutation in a gene called RET, which caused her cancer cells to grow out of control. Thankfully, a drug that blocks RET, Retevmo, was FDA-approved in 2020 and Hilary was able to start it as her first-line treatment right. The response has been nothing short of a miracle and has kept her cancer stable, and Hilary alive, for the past 1.5 years.

Unfortunately, this medication only works for 2 years on average before the cancer will start to outsmart it. We don’t know what side of the average Hilary will be. Once the drug stops working there are limited options - at least at the moment.

Despite future uncertainties, there is hope. There are EXCITING scientific advances on the horizon.

However, the challenges for Hilary’s cancer include:

  1. Lung cancer stigma undermines research and treatments. Despite being the #1 cancer killer (more deadly than colon, breast, and prostate cancer deaths combined) in the United States and globally, lung cancer research is massively underfunded. 

  2. The majority of RET+ lung cancer is found among younger women who have never smoked. RET-driven lung cancer is ~2% of all lung cancer, so of the reduced amount of funding lung cancer receives, most is allocated to more common subtypes.

  3. RET is still the the new kid on the block, and research therefore needs to catch up to other better-known cancer types.

Hilary’s cancer is a unicorn. A new rare cancer with a stigma attached to it.

For those reasons, Hilary, and those living with RET+ cancer, need to take matters into their own hands.

By donating to RETpositive, your donation goes specifically to support research, advocacy, and awareness of RET-driven cancer. It helps accelerate the pace and interest in bringing research of this rare cancer to the forefront and helps patients navigate the best treatments, experts and resources.

Thank you! We are truly humbled & grateful for all your support.

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