Convergence of Technology, Immunotherapy, and Courage Help U of Minnesota Patient Rise Above Life-Threatening Brain Tumor

In May 2018, 29-year-old Burnsville, Minnesota, resident, Adam Donahue, began experiencing unusual symptoms. “I had numbness that ran all the way up my right side to the top of my head,” he said. An MRI confirmed the source of the numbness — glioblastoma, the same kind of aggressive brain tumor that took the lives of Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy. “When you’re in your twenties, it’s not what you think you’ll go through,” said Adam’s wife, Angelica, tearfully. “It’s definitely been a tough time.” But building on a foundation of his own indomitable spirit and courage, plus cutting-edge surgical and therapeutic tools, Adam was given an opportunity few other glioblastoma patients have … to beat the odds. First, he went through radiation and chemotherapy, the standard treatment for glioblastoma. But the tumor continued growing, despite the therapeutic weapons being thrown at it. “It was disheartening when we saw that the treatment wasn’t doing what they thought it would do,” said Adam. Because his brain could not tolerate more radiation and there was no other chemotherapy available, Adam seemed to be out of options – until he was referred to U of Minnesota Neurosurgery Department Head Clark C. Chen, MD, PhD. “Dr. Chen was so calm about everything,” said Angelica. “The way he explained things to us made us feel very comfortable.” “He was super positive and reassuring, but also very honest about what we could expect,” added Adam. “That’s very helpful as a patient.” When Dr. Chen reviewed the case, he thought Adam would be an excellent candidate for a clinical trial that Dr. Chen is leading at Minnesota. The trial, known as DNAtrix, is a Phase 2, multi-center study exploring an innovative two-step treatment for glioblastoma.
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