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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

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Merck's Dr. Eric Rubin talking with Howard, a former cancer patient and friend
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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.”