Raquel Kaufler knows endurance. She often rose before dawn, training for marathons with friends. When her mother was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, Raquel was at her side until her mother died in 2010. But when Raquel was diagnosed with stage 4 clear cell renal cell carcinoma in 2012, she realized she was in the race of her life.
“I said to myself, ‘I’m going to beat this,’” Raquel said. “I need to do everything I can.”
Surgeons removed her cancerous right kidney, but follow-up scans showed the disease had spread to both lungs. While Raquel’s first oral treatments did not go well, her Sylvester oncologist Dr. Jaime Merchan was able to offer her a state-of-the-art targeted immunotherapy with few side effects through a clinical trial at Sylvester.
The treatment worked wonders and Dr. Merchan offered something else to Raquel: a chance to run again. Knowing that she was an avid athlete, he invited her to participate the DCC 5K with him in April 2021. The two started the race together and Dr. Merchan met her at the finish line, where he cheered when she rang the bell.
“It’s amazing how far we’ve advanced in medicine. When they first spotted the tumors in my lungs, my choices so slim. Now, we have targeted therapies and immunotherapy with very little side effects,” Raquel said. “That’s why the DCC is so important to me. Every dollar goes toward science and research to find a cure for cancer.
“It’s like running a marathon,” she continued. “It’s going to hurt, but every step you take brings you closer to the finish. With hope, we can beat cancer together.”
Jaime R. Merchan, MD. MMSc
Associate Professor of Medicine, Director, Phase 1 Program, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
Funds from the DCC are helping Jaime Merchan, M.D. develop effective treatments for highly aggressive metastatic renal cell carcinomas. “We have pioneered bringing targeted immunotherapies to our clinic,” said Dr. Merchan, M.D., associate professor and director of Sylvester’s Phase I Clinical Trials Program. “They can make a big difference for patients like Raquel who have adverse reactions to first-line therapy.”
Dr. Merchan’s research focuses on the development of new strategies to overcome resistance to therapies for renal cell, breast and colon cancer. He has a long track record of moving therapies from the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside, with translational projects that lead to innovative phase I trials in renal cell carcinoma and solid tumor patients.
“The DCC is a truly inspiring experience for participants, who enjoy the camaraderie and positive energy of this great event,” said Dr. Merchan. “The funds raised by the DCC play a critical role in our life-saving research, helping us launch innovative studies that can lead to clinical trials and potential treatments. Today, we have many treatment options for renal cell carcinoma patients, thanks in part to those dollars.”Share this story