Health Team

National group based in Triangle raising awareness, money for brain cancer research

Posted July 21, 2021 3:34 p.m. EDT
Updated July 21, 2021 5:59 p.m. EDT

The type of brain tumor known as glioblastoma is almost always a death sentence. Only about 5% of those with a glioblastoma diagnosis survive to the five-year mark.

Often, decline and death come quickly.

"This happened to him out of left field. It was horrible," said Tammy Schwartz.

Her husband, Michael, was an active 61-year-old when he was found to have a tumor on his brain stem in September 2020. He passed away on Nov. 15.

"It was the fastest decline," she said.

Tammy Schwartz and her daughters, who cared for Michael Schwartz while he was dying, expressed frustration that such a deadly disease is treated basically the same as it has been for decades.

"It's just glioblastoma diagnosis, chemo, radiation, and that's the standard of care, and it hasn't changed," said daughter Ilyse Schwartz.

The Schwartzes knew they had to do something. They raised $100,000 and donated it to the national Glioblastoma Foundation, which is headquartered in Durham.

Brooke Schwartz said, "We basically said that we want to figure out a way to fund any sort of research that will go towards glioblastoma, specifically brain stem glioblastoma, because it's so rare."

Gita Kwatra, CEO of the Glioblastoma Foundation, said the mission there is to transform the standard of care.

"We do know a lot about this cancer," Kwatra said. "We just haven't been able to apply it in a way that helps patients live longer and gets us to a cure."

She says one of the biggest challenges isn’t just funding research, but connecting patients with that research. They often don’t learn about clinical trials until it's too late. The Glioblastoma Foundation is trying to do a better job of making those connections.

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