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Ivy Blog

It’s Personal: Dr. Kris Smith

For many at the Ivy Brain Tumor Center, their personal connection with brain cancer has driven them to pursue a career in the field. But for Dr. Kris Smith, a neurosurgical oncologist at Barrow Neurological Institute and co-investigator at the Ivy Brain Tumor Center, his personal connection came later in life, after he had already begun his work in the fight against brain cancer.

When Dr. Smith began his residency at Barrow, he felt drawn to the field of tumor neurosurgery. “There was always this feeling of desperation, and just basically giving up, that there wasn’t a good treatment for glioblastoma,” Dr. Smith explained. “And I found that to be very frustrating, and an area that needed to be improved upon.”

In an effort to make the field better for these patients, he teamed up with Barrow’s director of neuro-oncology to open a clinical trial for patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma, or GBM, the most aggressive form of brain cancer.

Dr. Kris Smith's father
Dr. Kris Smith’s father

Soon, things became much more personal when his father was diagnosed with GBM at the age of 63 and was enrolled in the very trial Dr. Smith had written. This gave Dr. Smith a genuine look into the experience of the families on the other side of the desk; he was suddenly the son of someone going through a battle with brain cancer.

“I used to have patients come in, I’d listen to the family a little bit, I’d hear their stories, but now their words mean way more to me,” Dr. Smith said. “The interviews and what they say, I definitely remember every bit of that with my own father, and now it means much more. I can relate to them on a different level.”

Dr. Smith’s father ultimately succumbed to his glioblastoma, but the experience he had sticks with him to this day as he continues to work towards a cure for the disease. “It’s the most challenging problem in all of medicine in my opinion, finding a cure for glioblastoma is going to take more than one person,” Dr. Smith said. “It’s going to take an entire team of physicians and scientists working together to try to attack it. That’s what we’re establishing here at the Ivy Center.”

Dr. Kris Smith with brain tumor patient
Dr. Smith with brain tumor patient

The Ivy Brain Tumor Center is located at Barrow Neurological Institute, which treats more brain tumor patients than anywhere else in the country. We have the largest Phase 0 clinical trials program in the world and the first of its kind for neuro-oncology. 

“It is our passion to do things differently than they’ve always been done. The Phase 0/2 approach is a very targeted, very specific and scientific method of attacking the tumor, documenting its response and getting the analysis faster for our patients,” said Dr. Smith.

Click below to watch a video of Dr. Smith’s story.

Have you been personally impacted by brain cancer? We welcome you to share your story on social media using the hashtag #itspersonal and tag the Ivy Brain Tumor Center. We will share as many as we can to support this movement as we work to build awareness and help those suffering from glioblastoma and other aggressive brain tumors.  

Click here to learn more about why the fight against brain cancer is personal to the team at the Ivy Center.

For more information about our Phase 0 clinical trials, please contact an Ivy Navigator at 602-406-8605 or submit a trials screening request here.

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