A gift of hope for brain tumor patients
The Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation has the long-term, ultimate goal to cure brain cancer. The Ivy Foundation funds cutting-edge research and is the largest non-government organization supporting brain tumor research in the world, committing more than $91 million since 2005, with the expectation that this will lead to an eventual cure. Led by Catherine Ivy, the Foundation is a tireless advocate for brain tumor patients everywhere.
“We are dedicated to this effort because funding leads to answers, and answers lead to hope,” says Catherine.
Catherine’s husband, Ben, was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiform, an aggressive brain tumor, in August 2005 and passed away four months later. Upon Ben’s death, the Ivy Foundation refocused its mission to find a cure for brain cancer.
“His suffering and our sudden awareness of the lack of options to fight this disease motivated me to find better diagnostics and to develop therapies to alleviate the debilitating effects patients with brain tumors have to endure,” says Catherine.
During the last four months of Ben’s life, his quality of life was severely compromised. The mission of the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation is to fund brain tumor research in order to develop diagnostics and treatments that lead to long-term survival and a high quality of life for patients with brain tumors. “The patient is at the core of everything we do, which is why funding patient-focused research for brain cancer is the priority of the foundation,” says Catherine.
A new center of hope
In 2018, The Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation made a transformational $25 million grant to Barrow Neurological Foundation, the largest single grant ever made to Barrow, the largest in Dignity Health’s history and the largest grant ever made in support of brain tumor research in the nation. The investment, matched by the Barrow Neurological Foundation, will infuse $50 million into the search for a cure for brain cancer and will dramatically accelerate and intensify the testing of drugs on brain tumors in the newly formed Ivy Brain Tumor Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute. The center, led by Dr. Nader Sanai, operates the largest Phase 0/2 clinical trials program for brain tumors in the world.
“The more we discover, the more we can do to help patients and their families. Our Foundation has examined medical and research programs throughout the United States and even internationally,” says Catherine. “After years of assessing numerous options, we have decided to invest in the Ivy Brain Tumor Center at Barrow. We think Dr. Sanai and the new Ivy Brain Tumor Center is our best bet.”
Dr. Sanai’s bold approach to treating brain tumors is the Phase 0/2 clinical trial, in which a patient receives a small dose of an experimental drug the day before surgery to remove the tumor. During the operation, doctors collect the patient’s samples and immediately test for the effectiveness of the drug. If the drug was not effective, the patient is offered other therapies. If the treatment was effective, the patient moves to Phase 2 and receives a higher dose of the drug. This approach is a unique form of personalized medicine, and thanks to the support of the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation, Barrow is leading the national movement to quickly identify drugs that will save lives.
“This gift will fast track discovery and offer support and hope to those battling brain tumors,” says Dr. Sanai. “The formation of the center will propel our innovative research model to a new level as we put a laser focus on seeking a cure in the next decade. The Ivy Foundation’s donation is a true gift of hope.”
Prior to Barrow’s daring expansion into Phase 0 trialing, complex studies like this were only attempted at the National Institutes of Health. Now, Barrow is leading a national movement to rapidly identify new drugs that will save lives. “Phase 0 trials are the quickest route to identify individualized strategies for treating glioblastoma and our approach demands only a fraction of the time and costs associated with traditional drug research and development,” says Dr. Sanai. “With the Ivy Foundation’s grant and the Barrow’s expertise in Phase 0 trialing, we believe glioblastoma will meet its match.”
“Thanks to the Ivy Foundation’s inspiring commitment, the Barrow Neurological Institute has established the Ivy Brain Tumor Center, a 20,000 square foot state-of-the art facility that provides Dr. Sanai and his team of scientist and clinician specialists with state-of-the-art resources to focus on accelerated patient trials and save lives,” says Katie Cobb, President of the Barrow Neurological Foundation.
The new center will ultimately mean that every patient in the United States, regardless of diagnosis or state of the tumor, will have the individualized option for an experimental therapy. The Ivy Brain Tumor Center is currently screening malignant brain tumor patients from around the world.