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Najafi Family Establishes Neurosurgical Oncology Chair at Barrow

July 11, 2019

PHOENIX, AZ — July 11, 2019 — Francis and Dionne Najafi have endowed the Neurosurgical Oncology Chair at Barrow Neurological Institute. This endowed fund at the Barrow Neurological Foundation will be used to match donations for brain tumor research for the next decade. Dr. Nader Sanai, Director of the Ivy Brain Tumor Center at Barrow Neurological Institute, has been named the chair.

“For us, it is important to support individuals and institutions that we trust, and it is also critical that our giving is leveraged to create something bigger,” Mr. Najafi said. “Dr. Sanai has envisioned a way to disrupt what we have seen happen in drug development for brain tumor patients. He is leading the charge to find a cure for brain cancer over the next decade. And we believe that he can make a major impact.”

Glioblastoma Awareness Day will be observed on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. Sen. Martha McSally and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema co-sponsored a bipartisan resolution to raise awareness of the deadly form of brain cancer that took the life of Sen. John McCain in August 2018.

Dr. Sanai is an internationally recognized neurosurgical oncologist with clinical and research expertise in the treatment of all brain tumors. He is the Southwest’s most active dedicated neurosurgical oncologist, with more than 2,500 brain tumor surgeries performed since 2010. As Director of the Ivy Brain Tumor Center, Dr. Sanai leads its innovative Phase 0 clinical trials which identify drug combinations tailored to a patient’s specific tumor DNA.

“Our Phase 0 approach for malignant brain tumors is a game-changer for cancer research and our program is the first of its kind in the world,” said Dr. Sanai. “I am grateful to Francis and Dionne Najafi for recognizing the promise of our approach and empowering us to seek the next horizon in brain tumor treatment through the endowment of this chair.”

The Najafis will be creating this endowment through the Barrow Women’s Board, which has raised more than $67 million to advance research at Barrow since 1965. Dionne Najafi served as co-chair for the 2019 Barrow Grand Ball and was inspired by her interactions with doctors and patients.

“I have heard the stories of the countless lives that Barrow physicians have saved as they accept the challenge of treating patients who others deemed ‘untreatable,’” Mrs. Najafi said. “My nephew’s wife had a brain tumor and was treated by Dr. Sanai. We are so grateful for his care and attention.”

With the endowed chair and matching funds, Dr. Sanai will have protected time to conduct more transformative research.

The Ivy Brain Tumor Center was established through a $50 million investment from the Arizona-based Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation in coordination with the Barrow Neurological Foundation. It is the largest-ever research grant in the history of brain tumor research, the largest gift in the history of Barrow Neurological Foundation and the largest gift in the history of Dignity Health.

“Thanks to Francis and Dionne Najafi’s commitment, Dr. Sanai will be able to reject norms and push boundaries in brain tumor research,” said Katie Cobb, president of the Barrow Neurological Foundation. “We hope that those who care about finding a cure for brain tumors will step forward to participate in this match and give hope to these brave patients.”

Nader Sanai, MD, Jessie Sanai, Dionne Najafi and Francis Najafi. The Najafi Family established the Neurosurgical Oncology Chair at Barrow Neurological Institute, and Dr. Sanai is the appointed chair.