In May 2016, Bob Reaumond of Chicago experienced a sharp pain in his stomach, an unusual symptom for the otherwise healthy 58-year-old, a professional musician-turned-real estate executive. He began to lose weight as the pain continued and sought care at a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with pancreatitis.
“Six months later, we were at MD Anderson for a second opinion,” says Paul Reaumond, one of Bob’s four grown children. “That’s when the reality hit: Dad had stage IV pancreatic cancer and might not survive the year ahead.”
But Bob’s lifelong philosophy was that no matter how hard life hits, you keep getting up. And so he did—through 16 rounds of chemotherapy and, on his “off” weeks, personalized treatment, elective exploratory surgeries and participation in clinical trials at MD Anderson, where he met Anirban Maitra, M.B.B.S., professor of Pathology and Translational Molecular Pathology, scientific director of the Sheikh Ahmed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research and co-leader of MD Anderson’s Pancreatic Cancer Moon Shot®.
“It was at MD Anderson that Dad realized he could be a part of this groundbreaking research,” says Paul, who describes MD Anderson as a “cancer factory, in the best sense of the word.”
“It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” he says. “There is so much hope and relief knowing that there is no better place in the world to help you fight this vicious disease.”
Paul says participating in Maitra’s research gave his dad enthusiasm and hope. It drove him to keep a positive outlook, push harder and know that his treatments might be part of a cure in the future.
Bob died in October 2017, and a year later the family established The Reaumond Foundation to fund pancreatic cancer research and to provide financial assistance to help families with nonmedical-related costs such as transportation, housing and caregiver support. The family set a $1 million fundraising goal, accomplished with the help of a successful kickoff gala in March 2019 and this year’s second annual gala, Feb. 22 at the Mid America Club in Chicago. A medical advisory board, of which Maitra is a member, consists of pancreatic cancer experts to ensure donations are allocated to those most in need. The foundation recently committed $300,000 to establish the first pancreatic cancer scholar program at MD Anderson.
“I hear his voice saying, ‘You’ve got to do this’,” says Paul. “We must create a sense of urgency for pancreatic cancer so that the funding it receives is comparable to that of other cancers. Through this foundation, we are extending Dad’s compassion for others. This is Bob’s Encore.”
The Reaumond Family Scholar Program in Pancreatic Cancer Research at MD Anderson is designed to nurture promising early-career faculty who are advancing innovative pancreatic cancer research, says Maitra, who oversees the program.
Following a rigorous peer review, Cullen Taniguchi, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of Radiation Oncology, has been selected as the inaugural Reaumond Family Scholar. Taniguchi’s winning research proposal investigates the effects of mitochondrial fusion in suppressing pancreatic cancer.