Ivy Brain Tumor Center Saves Graduate’s Life

Barrow Magazine Spring 2019

Happening Now

Ivy Brain Tumor Center Saves Graduate’s Life

In 2015, Nick Stump woke up every morning to nausea and vomiting. A recent graduate of Northern Arizona University, Nick was trying to focus on his work as a speech and debate coach. Instead, he suffered crushing headaches that forced him to lie down.

Test after test came back normal. Finally, an MRI was ordered.

“My doctor called me and asked if I could come in within a half hour,” Nick recalled. “By that afternoon, I was meeting with Dr. Nader Sanai at Barrow Neurological Institute, and I had surgery a week later.”

The diagnosis was stage 3 malignant meningioma, which is a tumor that forms on the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. After a 19-hour surgery, Nick’s headaches vanished.

Before surgery, Nick agreed to have his tumor genetically profiled to provide more insights for Dr. Sanai’s team. It was a fateful decision.

Nick enrolled in graduate school at San Diego State University, where his focus turned “to keep myself healthy and study, study, study.” He had quarterly follow-up MRIs, but he was looking forward to a bright future.

“The day after I walked for graduation, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor in San Diego, and I was diagnosed with a recurrence.”

Nick was only 26 years old, but fortunately, he was a candidate for the accelerated Phase 0/2 clinical trials program, led by Dr. Nader Sanai at the Ivy Brain Tumor Center. Patients at the Ivy Brain Tumor Center receive individualized care in a fraction of the time and cost associated with traditional research and development. Tumor profiling from Nick’s first surgery was used to identify a drug therapy tailored specifically to the DNA of his individual tumor.

“I started taking the medicine a week before the second surgery,” Nick said. “After surgery they looked at whether the drug had reached the tumor, and whether it was effective, which it was.”

For the past six months, Nick has been taking the medication, which was originally designed to fight against certain types of breast cancer.

“I am really thankful to be on this clinical trial,” he said. “I have doctors who take the time to look at genetic profiles to see that this is a potential new application for this medication – not just for patients like myself, but for those going forward.”

While enrolled in the trial, Nick was working as a substitute teacher to accommodate his medical appointments, but now he has begun to focus on the future, again.

“I don’t take life for granted, but at the same time, it can be difficult not to think about what I’ll be doing in the next five years,” he said. “I am applying to work in a medical setting to be able to give back to other patients.”