Updated 08/13/2012 12:01 AM
Brain Tumor Patient's Success Story Helps Gain Support For New Treatment
A local doctor is testing a new way to treat brain cancer and it is having dramatic results. NY1’s Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
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Dennis Shugrue may be a medical miracle.
The 52-year-old was invited to speak at the Brain Tumor Biotech Summit at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center on June 8 because he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer in 2009 and was given about five months to live.
“One of the big sayings we always had was, 'that which does not kill you makes you stronger,’" Shugrue says. "Well you know what? It’s love and support that makes you stronger.”
Shugrue is stronger these days and has a clean bill of health, according to his latest MRI. But three years ago, the hedge fund manager got the shock of his life. He was seeking treatment for a sinus infection and low grade headache when an MRI revealed a malignant tumor.
“[The doctor] said it was the size of a plum,” Shugrue says.
Faced with the prospect that his form of cancer could double in size every 17 days, Shugrue didn't hesitate when Dr. John Boockvar, a neurosurgeon at Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center, told him about an experimental procedure that injects the drug Avastin directly into the tumor site.
“Dennis was our second patient and it was scary because nobody had done this with these micro catheters that deep in the brain and with a drug that had some hemorrhage risk," Boockvar says.
There was also a risk of brain swelling and seizures. But the treatment worked wonders for Shugrue. Now, neurologists around the world are taking notice.
The clinical trial is doing something that science didn't believe was possible: getting past the blood barrier in the brain, a natural defense system meant to keep drugs out.
“In the tumor, you can open the blood brain barrier for a couple of minutes, give your drug and have the gates shut behind it,” Boockvar says.
Shugrue now works a few days a week and gets regular treatments. His wife, Donna Shugrue, says every clean MRI is a blessing.
“Dennis always said his whole life, he always considers himself a lucky man and I think he still does,” she says.
To learn more about Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center’s clinical trial, call 1-866-426-7787 or visit www.weillcornellbrainandspine.org and www.braintumorbiotechsummit.org.