By Najee Boucher and Jaya Mini Gill
February 12, 2017, Pacific Palisades, CA: It is still an unfortunate fact that many young people’s lives are affected and cut short by brain cancer. And yet time and again, we witness the strength of the human spirit rise up and fight despite of and in the midst of such adversity.
In September 2014 at only 20 years old, Sean Hunter was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) took hold of Sean’s brain and very quickly his health began to deteriorate. Like many other parents of children with cancer, Sean’s mother Michele was not prepared to hear that her son’s illness could not be treated. Anxiety, fear, and anger finally gave way to a firm resolve to fight the disease with and for Sean. “Doctors told my son to go home to hospice. I couldn’t accept that for my child, so I found someone who wouldn’t either,” said Michele.
Determined to do whatever she could, Michele sought out Santosh Kesari, MD, PhD, a world-renowned expert in the treatment of GBM, to use outside-the-box therapies to treat Sean. Dr. Kesari is a founding Director of Pacific Neuroscience Institute (PNI) specializing in neuro-oncology. He is Professor of Neurosciences and Chair of the Department of Translational Neurosciences and Neurotherapeutics at John Wayne Cancer Institute (JWCI).
“Dr. Kesari understands the urgency of improved response to therapy and is working to accelerate the development of novel therapies for brain cancer through drug innovations, genomics and efficient trials,” said Michele. With the higher goal of supporting brain cancer research not only for her son but for others as well, Michele organized the Sean Hunter Research in Action walk as a fundraising event for brain cancer research at the John Wayne Cancer Institute under the direction of Dr. Kesari.
Two years after his diagnosis, Sean, now 22, has had precious time with his family and friends – time he would otherwise not have had. Michele said, “Dr. Kesari is there to fight with us, to give Sean hope when there was none.”
In conjunction with Saint John’s Health Center Foundation (SJHCF) and with the support of Michele’s parish, family and friends, the first Sean Hunter Research in Action walk took place on the sunny Sunday afternoon of February 12 in Pacific Palisades. Hundreds of Michele’s friends from the Corpus Christi Church community including pastor Monsignor Liam Kidney, enthusiastically participated in the event along with Saint John’s Foundation and Providence Saint John’s Health Center staff and their families. Saint John’s Chief Executive Marcel Loh and Chief Medical Officer Donald Larsen walked with Sean’s friends and family and even some of his former teachers from Corpus Christi School.
Dr. Kesari, Dr. Marlon Saria and other members of the clinical trials team were on hand to help kick off this inspiring event. Robert O. Klein, President and CEO of the Saint John’s Health Center Foundation perfectly summed up the focus and drive that Michele embodies as he introduced her to inaugurate the Sean Hunter Research in Action walk. “Never underestimate a mother’s love,” he said.
The event has grossed more than $238,000 for cancer research at the John Wayne Cancer Institute.
For more information about Dr. Kesari’s research programs, please contact us at 310-829-8265 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contribute towards life-saving research, please contact Saint John’s Foundation Director of Development, Mary Byrnes at 310-582-7102 or Mary.Byrnes@stjohns.org.
Najee A. Boucher is a clinical research associate at the Pacific Neuroscience Research Center at Pacific Neuroscience Institute. Along with his colleagues in the Department of Translational Neurosciences and Neurotherapeutics, his focus is directed toward clinical trials research developing potential therapeutic candidates targeting brain cancer.
Jaya Mini Gill, RN, BSN is involved in all aspects of clinical trial study design and processes in the Department of Translational Neurosciences and Neurotherapeutics at the John Wayne Cancer Institute. An experienced nurse, she is responsible for accurate protocol implementation along with the treatment, care, management, and follow-up of patients.