Riding to set the stage for the future of cancer treatment

At Roswell Park, we’re continuously looking to the future — to new data and findings, game-changing discoveries and the best available treatment options for our patients. The funds brought in through the Ride for Roswell are dedicated toward pursuing not only innovative researchers and clinicians, but also top technology and facilities.

Renier Brentjens, MD, PhD, serves as Deputy Director, The Katherine Anne Gioia Endowed Chair in Cancer Medicine, Chair of the Department of Medicine and Professor of Oncology in the Departments of Medicine and Immunology. He joined the Roswell Park team in 2021 and is already making plans to expand what Roswell Park can do for our patients.

Dr. Brentjens works with another scientist in lab
Dr. Brentjens works with another scientist in lab

Looking to the future

Dr. Brentjens’ plans are centered around cellular therapies. This type of treatment is a type of immunotherapy which uses reengineered cells to help a patient’s immune system identify and attack cancer cells.

He currently has his sights on two clinical trials, which will improve CAR T-cell therapy for lymphomas and for other B-cell cancers. Those trials are in very early stages, but it takes forward thinking and thoughtful planning to bring about changes this groundbreaking.

This work would not be possible without donor support. Thanks to riders like you and the donors who support your Ride, the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation was able to promise the necessary funding for each of those two trials and an additional third trial that will focus on multiple types of solid tumor cancers such as breast and colon cancers.

“Part of the trials lies in the preparation,” Dr. Brentjens said. “You have to first build the foundation before you can build the house, and that’s what this is.”

Building the foundation

Roswell Park has done incredible work using redirected CAR T-cells in research and patient care, exploring its potential and innovating its uses. Its facilities, however, have not previously had the infrastructure to create their own CAR T-cells. Donor funding will be invested into installing the platform and equipment necessary to bring this side of the work in-house.

Setting the stage for Dr. Brentjens’ upcoming trials will not only advance these particular projects, but it will also help this whole area of investigation surge forward right here in Buffalo. This expansion will expedite research and more efficiently bring about new trials and therefore new treatment options for the patients who turn to Roswell Park for hope.

“The foundation that we lay now will help us more rapidly open the subsequent trials,” Dr. Brentjens said. “Everything that we’re doing now is to gear up our institution, our facility, to run those trials.”

Dr. Brentjens works with another scientist
Dr. Renier Brentjens

Taking it to the next step

“Roswell Park donors in the WNY area — and outside the WNY area — have made it possible for me to do this work,” Dr. Brentjens said. He also credits the forward thinking of Roswell Park’s leadership and his predecessors with preparing the way for continual advancement, particularly in the realm of cellular therapies. “At best there is a handful of institutions that are equally well set to move this technology forward, which was a remarkable discovery for me when I first came.”

On the topic of moving the technology forward, it is no secret that Dr. Brentjens is laser focused on drastically expanding the number of patients and the types of cancer Roswell Park can impact through cellular therapies. Though the initial trials coming down the pipeline will improve upon options for patients with lymphoma and B-cell cancers, he is eager to advance this technology to be available to patients with solid tumors, as well.

With the passionate drive of our researchers and the sustained dedication of our donors, these advances are just around the corner. Roswell Park continues to urgently seek the next and best options for our loved ones and neighbors battling cancers of all kinds.

That is the power of making a gift to Roswell Park.

Meet Cheryl Reinhardt: The 2022 Ride for Roswell Torch Lighter

Cheryl's story.

Six months. That’s how long Cheryl Reinhardt’s doctor said she had left to live after diagnosing her with stage 4 ovarian cancer. The news took Cheryl back to the 1980s when her mom received the same exact diagnosis and passed away a week later. Cheryl assumed the worst — until her doctor referred her to Roswell Park. “I went down to the deepest depths, and all of a sudden I was lifted back up, because somebody at Roswell said, ‘Oh look — there’s sunshine. We’re not giving up.’ And they never gave up,” Cheryl says. That was in 2004.
Cheryl poses with partner

Eighteen years later.

Cheryl laughs

Eighteen years later, Cheryl’s still delighting in everything this life has to offer. That includes cooking, scrapbooking, trips to Disney World and exploring everything in Buffalo. She’s an adventurer and laugh enthusiast whose smile lights up the room.

(See? We told you!)

Cheryl has also been a proud supporter of the Ride for Roswell for 17 years alongside her wife, Barb (pictured with Cheryl above). All of this and more make Cheryl the perfect person to represent cancer patients and light the torch at the 2022 Celebration of Hope on Friday, June 24.

“I feel like I just climbed the biggest mountain. I have had cancer for 18 years, and I was happy to carry the flag, but to carry the torch — to light the torch — that’s like winning an Oscar. It’s the highest honor.”

Lighting the way.

Being the torch lighter is an honor that Cheryl’s ready to take on. She was already getting active in preparation for Ride Day on June 25. Now, she’s also lifting weights to build arm strength and perfecting her pose.

“I want to light that torch to say, ‘We’re going to light our way out of this ugliness. And we’re going be stronger than we were before.’”

Cheryl believes there will come a day when the word cancer isn’t quite so scary. She has seen firsthand what Roswell Park can do for patients and how far treatment has advanced over the last decades. At each phase of her 18-year cancer journey, she was offered a treatment option or clinical trial. These treatment options and clinical trials were available to Cheryl because of the advances in research that donations to the Ride have made possible.

Cheryl gives fist pump

Sometimes, Cheryl’s journey wasn’t easy. There were times when she was too sick to do her favorite things or when her immune system was too weak to be around people. But all of that brought Cheryl to where she is today. Now, she’s passionate about fundraising for the Ride to advance the research that has helped her.

“The Ride for Roswell means a lot to me, because I want them to continue their success,” Cheryl says. “They have already proven that they can do it, but we need to save more people. We can’t do that without funds.”

Team Fran's Angels.

Cheryl smiling

Named in honor of Cheryl’s mother, Team Fran’s Angels (of which both Cheryl and Barb are a part) has already started working toward a fundraising goal of $25,000. Visit the team page here.

Cheryl and Barb both hope to see you on Ride weekend, and Cheryl also has a little advice for first-time riders:

“Be prepared to be embraced with love! Eventually, you’ll know everyone at the Ride.”