When Cheryl Bonder came to Weill Cornell Medicine in 2013 she had suffered for 10 years with various, worrying symptoms that were eventually diagnosed as a blood malignancy that progressed into acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a rare blood cancer. Her physician, Dr. Gail Roboz, professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology and director of the Clinical and Translational Leukemia Program at Weill Cornell Medicine, began several drug regimens and treatments, including an unsuccessful stem cell transplant.
Three years ago, when it seemed as if options were running out and Cheryl’s health was failing, Dr. Roboz collaborated with researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who sequenced the biology of Cheryl’s cancer and tested it with new drugs in development. Through sophisticated precision medicine technology and analysis researchers were able to decipher the uniqueness of Cheryl’s illness and craft a customized and effective treatment strategy using one of the newly created drugs that was best suited to Cheryl’s cancer type. Despite limited testing of the drug at the time, Dr. Roboz brought it to Cheryl as one last option–and she took the leap.
“I decided to move forward with the treatment because I had these two little girls,” says Cheryl of her then pre-teen daughters, Kyle and Danielle, who often accompanied her to appointments for support. “I knew what it was like living without my own mom and I couldn't do that to my girls. I had to do whatever I could to try to save myself.”
Six weeks after she started the novel treatment, she was in total remission.
Dr. Juan Miguel Mosquera, director of research pathology at the Englander Institute for Precision Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, made the genetic discovery that Cheryl’s genome had two genes not typically found together. This discovery and analysis led to research of the mutation by Dr. Monica Guzman, a researcher and member of the Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, who, along with Dr. Gabriela Chiosis, a professor with the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering, determined an experimental drug, typically meant for another type of tumor, could save Cheryl. The incredible collaboration among these researchers and Dr. Roboz brought the new therapeutic directly from the bench to Cheryl’s bedside, showcasing the power of precision medicine. Collaborations such as this help to achieve and accelerate revolutionary breakthroughs–such as in Cheryl’s case.