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Ivy Blog

John VanGundy’s Battle with Glioblastoma

In August of 2019, John VanGundy went to his primary care doctor for what he thought to be a simple sinus infection. He later learned his symptoms were being caused by something much more serious – a malignant brain tumor.

The diagnosis was glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer. He received first-line treatment – surgery, chemotherapy, and six weeks of radiation. This kept his tumor under control for well beyond the average survival for a patient with glioblastoma, but when a follow-up MRI showed regrowth of his tumor a year and a half later, he says he was devastated. Hope beyond the standard of care for brain cancer was rare and hard for him to find. 

John VanGundy
John VanGundy

Things turned around when he received a call from a clinical research nurse at the Ivy Brain Tumor Center with word that he was a good candidate for a new Phase 0 clinical trial they had just opened at Chandler Regional Medical Center. John says he was so excited to have a glimmer of hope, not only for himself but also for others with this horrible disease.  

As part of the study, John received a drug called pamiparib for five days prior to the scheduled surgery to remove his tumor. The primary goal of this clinical trial is to assess if the drug is capable of penetrating the blood-brain barrier and reaching the tumor, the number one reason most new drugs fail to work in brain tumor patients. If the drug reaches the tumor, the patient receives the drug in combination with radiation which helps the investigators evaluate whether the drug enhances the effect of radiation.

“Although navigating this disease is very scary and participating in a clinical trial can be overwhelming, the research team at the Ivy Brain Tumor Center was wonderful and treated me like family. They walked me through every step of the process from receiving the drug to undergoing surgery,” said John.  

Dr. Mark Garrett, a Barrow neurosurgeon, performed the tumor resection on February 16, 2021. The surgery was a complete success and John was able to go home within two days. Two weeks later he returned for his follow-up appointment and to get the staples removed from the incision site.  

“The Ivy research team was at the appointment and gave me incredible news. The investigational drug I had received prior to surgery was reaching my tumor and responding quite well. This meant I could move on to Phase 2 and continue taking the drug in combination with radiation knowing it has the potential to work for me.”

John says he now has more appreciation for each day thanks to the glimmer of hope the Ivy Center’s Phase 0 clinical trials have given him.

To learn more about Ivy Phase 0 clinical trials, visit or contact an Ivy Navigator today at 602-406-8605.

Win or lose this trial was absolutely the right thing for me to try. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the entire team at Ivy, Barrow and Chandler Regional for the wonderful care, but most of all for giving me hope.

john vangundyPatient Survivor

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Ivy Center