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Stem Cell Luncheon — July 31st 2010

The American physician and writer, Orison Swett Marden (1850-1924) once wrote, “There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great and no tonic as powerful as expectations of a better tomorrow.”

It is in this spirit that on a perfect summer day in July, a group of approximately 200 brain cancer patients, their families, friends, and the entire Quiñones Lab Team gathered to share knowledge with and lend support to one another at the 2nd Annual Stem Cell Luncheon.

Stem Cell Luncheon Summer 2010

Take a peak at the Johns Hopkins' Stem Cell Luncheon during the summer of 2010. Speakers include Dr Alfredo Quinones, Robyn Kirby, and Jon Petrovick.

Here at the Quiñones lab, we can never stress enough the important role our patients play. At the Stem Cell Luncheon we aimed to stress that our patients provide us both with real, tangible support in terms of donations (both via tissue donations and financial gifts) and also with emotional support in terms of providing us with the key ingredient necessary for success: motivation

Dr Ahmed Mohyeldin
Dr Ahmed Mohyeldin

Meet Dr Ahmed Mohyeldin

Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Dr Ahmed Mohyeldin hit these points squarely on the head with his talk on the research he and his team are currently conducting on a tumor of the central nervous system called chordoma (please see this edition’s Spotlight on Research for a complete description of the research). Chordomas are a relatively rare tumor but they are notorious for being resistant to chemotherapy and radiation, and quite frequently recur after surgery.  A lack of human chordoma cell lines has hampered scientists’ ability to gain knowledge of the biology behind this deleterious tumor. 

Thanks to tissue donations from a handful of chordoma patients, Ahmed and his team were able to perfect the method for successfully culturing what we believe are some of the first ever human chordoma cell lines. After verifying that the cells growing in a dish display many of the key features of the actual tumor, the team has conducted several elegant studies that have shed some light on the cell biology and biochemical pathways implicated in this disease. Similar to Ahmed’s work on chordomas, the work our lab does on gliomas, pituitary tumors, and mesenchymal stem cells harvested from human fat tissue would never be possible without the continuous supply of tissue donations from our patients, and we hope that those who were able to attend the Stem Cell Luncheon could sense our heartfelt gratitude.

In addition to the research talk by Dr Mohyeldin, we were all fortunate enough to hear two incredible stories of patients battling brain cancer.

Robyn Kirby
Robyn Kirby

Meet Robyn Kirby

Ms Robyn Kirby described her ferocious and ongoing battle with grade IV brain cancer. Undergoing several surgeries and being on chemotherapy have taken their toll, leaving Robyn with visual impairments and with the laundry list of side-effects of chemo. However, Robyn shared with us how despite all of these hurdles, she was able to complete her teacher’s certification and has fulfilled her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. She now teaches (and keeps up with!) a class of rambunctious and energetic 2nd graders.

John Petrovick
John Petrovick

Meet Mr John Petrovick

Mr John Petrovick was also kind enough to share his unique story with us.

John was a law student and training for the 2008 Baltimore Marathon when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. John described how after he had regained strength from surgery and chemotherapy he pledged that he would run the Marathon in 2009. Within months of undergoing surgery, John was back in his running shoes, though he admits that at first he could barely walk more than a few blocks at a time. Nonetheless, John trained tirelessly while returning back to school, and completed the Baltimore Marathon last October. He ran it again this October 16th and we wish him all the best! Both John and Robyn demonstrate that with the love and support of friends and family members and with awe-inspiring individual determination, brain cancer does not have to be a complete road-block towards achieving your goals.


Special thanks also go out to AMYGDALA MEDIA for their photographic coverage of the day.

While the event was a great way to celebrate the strides the lab has made in research and accomplishments of patients like Robyn and John, it was also a somber reminder to all of us that there is much work to be done. The truth of the matter is that brain cancer remains a staggering challenge: the current standard of care of surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation cannot prevent the most malignant forms of brain cancer from coming back. It is our job here in the Quiñones lab to further our understanding of the biology of brain tumors in order to find better therapeutic strategies and improve patient outcomes.

We thank all of our patients, their families and friends for allowing us to be a part of your lives and for becoming such an integral part of ours. We hope that the Stem Cell Luncheon was as momentous of an opportunity for all of you as it was for us — an event that hopefully provided us all with the strongest medicine there is: hope. Hope that together, as a dynamic team of patients, physicians and scientists, there will be a better tomorrow.

Learn more about Dr Quiñones and ongoing research at the Johns Hopkins Neurosurgery Brain Tumor Stem Cell Lab.

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