Lera Chitwood: Research Advocate and Fight CRC Clinical Trial Curator


Resources and Research Blog
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Retired Research Professional Turned Cancer Research Pro

With the background of a competitive intelligence analyst, business research manager, and adjunct professor teaching Internet and business skills to graduates, I have decades of experience searching online for information. My research skills proved valuable when my late son, Jonathan, was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer in 2013.  

As his patient advocate, I was able to identify the best cancer resources, understand his devastating diagnosis, and research new immunotherapy treatments and clinical trials. 

Through my research, I was able to push for his inclusion in a clinical trial specific to his gene mutation, MSS mutated BRAF V600e. Ryan Corcoran, MD, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital, led the clinical trial and continues researching ways to increase survival among patients with this mutation. My experience fighting for him showed me how my research skills could be useful as a patient advocate. 

Advocating in his Honor Through the RATS Program

Jonathan and Lera
Their Last Picture Taken Together

When he died, I wanted to use my skills and newly-acquired cancer knowledge in a meaningful and purposeful way that honors him. I applied for and was accepted into Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC)’s research advocacy training and support (RATS) program. My research training with Fight CRC has taught me more about cancer biology and patient needs.

As a member of the RATS program, I attended a week-long RATS Academy and currently participate in ongoing educational webinars, help with new resources, and attend tours of research labs and cancer-specific conferences. 

Additionally, I’m part of a team of research advocates serving as curators of clinical trials selected for Fight CRC’s specialized late stage MSS colorectal cancer clinical trial finder. We are constantly looking up terms, drugs, and genetic cell mutations to determine if the trial fits our parameters. The more knowledge I (we) have of molecular biology and current research efforts and results, the better patient advocates and curators we will be.

Making an Impact

RATS Academy 2018 – Colorado University

Two years ago, I moved from Boston, Massachusetts to San Antonio, Texas and intend to become more integrated with local efforts to support cancer patients. As a previous cancer patient myself (breast, skin, and endometrial), I relate to patient navigation and advocacy efforts.