A scientist and a cancer survivor reflect on 34-year friendship and fighting cancer
Dr. Eric H. Rubin shares how his relationship with a patient-turned-friend reinforced his mission to help even more people
January 31, 2023
Dr. Eric H. Rubin, former senior vice president, oncology early development, Merck Research Laboratories, and Howard Brown, author, speaker, two-time cancer survivor and advocate, first met in 1989. Brown, just a 23-year-old recent college graduate, had gone to the hospital to get a purple mark on his cheek evaluated. Dr. Rubin was a first-year fellow on the medical team who had to deliver the devastating news that Brown had an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and would need to begin treatment immediately.
“A cancer diagnosis just stops you in your tracks,” Brown said. “It sets you on a really tough journey that can be unpredictable. Dr. Rubin and I were close in age, and we found a common ground because we had to build trust and we were trying to solve this giant jigsaw puzzle and there were no guarantees. I think my experience with Dr. Rubin back in 1989 was a precursor to where we are now. Advocacy and patient-centric care is now more of the norm.”
Dr. Rubin sees a direct line from his experience treating Brown and other patients like him as motivation to continue advancing cancer research.
“I moved from clinical practice, where I was treating patients, to clinical development at Merck because I wanted to help discover and develop new and more effective treatments that could help patients,” says Dr. Rubin. “My friendship with Howard is a constant reminder of why I do this work. We must continue to follow the science and research new therapies that can help patients fight cancer.”