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Ivy Blog

StacheStrong Supports Innovative Glioblastoma Research at the Ivy Brain Tumor Center

Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) is the most common and deadliest type of malignant brain tumor. The average five-year survival rate for patients with GBM is only five percent, so time is of the utmost importance after diagnosis. Between tests, treatments, and surgeries, patients and their loved ones take time to cherish the moments they have together, while finding strength and courage in one another. 

That was the case for the Gerner family of New York when their beloved son and brother, GJ, was diagnosed with glioblastoma. Inspired by GJ’s courageous battle with GBM, the Gerners created StacheStrong, a non-profit foundation dedicated to raising funds for brain cancer research. Recently, StacheStrong has partnered with the Ivy Brain Tumor Center at Barrow Neurological Institute to further their shared mission of increasing the lifespan of patients with malignant brain tumors and contributing to a cure for brain cancer. 

More Than Just a Mustache  

It was Labor Day weekend in 2017 when Colin Gerner received a call that would change his life. His older brother, GJ, had a seizure while out with friends and was rushed to the hospital. After a tense 10 hours that felt more like days, the Gerner family learned that a golf ball-sized tumor on GJ’s brain was the cause of the seizure. He was scheduled to go in for surgery to remove the mass four days later. 

GJ and his brother, Colin

The night before the surgery, GJ did something drastic — he shaved off his beard, deciding to sport a mustache instead. GJ knew that he wouldn’t be returning to work any time soon, so he set out to grow the boldest of mustaches. When Colin saw GJ’s fresh new ‘stache, he was overcome with emotion. The message was loud and clear: they were in this fight together.

At that moment, StacheStrong was born. The mustache came to mean so much more to Colin than he had ever expected, especially after GJ received his official GBM diagnosis. “Over the first six months, the mustache became quite a staple, but it is truly more than a crazy mustache. It’s my Superman cape, my Captain America shield and my Thor hammer all in one,” Colin notes in his story about the experience. 

The Gerner Family

Over the next 25 months, the sense of togetherness that the mustache represented would help the entire Gerner family through GJ’s brain surgery, his first round of chemotherapy and radiation, five additional rounds of maximum dosage chemotherapy, Optune array treatment, and everything in between. Even today, Colin still marvels at his older brother’s incredible strength, recalling how only 72 hours after an invasive brain surgery, GJ was able to smile and take a picture with him as he waited for his cab ride home. “I’m happy to call the strongest human I’ve ever met in my life my big brother, my best friend, and my hero,” writes Colin. 

Still Going StacheStrong 

Colin and GJ are the co-founders of StacheStrong, with Colin serving as the president. GJ served as the treasurer for two years before gaining his wings on September 17, 2019 and passing the torch along to his family members to continue the fight against GBM. That is exactly what they have done. Thanks to the strength and inspiration of GJ, StacheStrong has become a beacon of hope for countless individuals and families afflicted by this devastating disease. Since its inception, StacheStrong has raised over $1,750,000 and has funded 13 clinical trials and research grants, all going towards brain cancer research. 

Partnering with the Ivy Center 

Colin credits advancements made in research for allowing GJ to live 25 months after his diagnosis, double the average survivability timeframe. That’s why when Colin first heard about Dr. Nader Sanai and the groundbreaking Phase 0 clinical trials program at the Ivy Center, he was immediately interested. The specialists at the Ivy Center know that time is a brain tumor patient’s most important commodity, which is why Ivy Phase 0 clinical trials match patients to first-in-class drug combinations and confirm drug effects within days. If the drug combination has the intended effect on the tumor, the patient moves on to the next phase of the trial. If it has no effect, the patient can enroll in another trial without losing too much time.

“When you’re in the midst of a GBM diagnosis with your loved one, time is of the essence. You’re desperate for a cure tomorrow, not at an unknown, distant point in the future. The moment I met with Dr. Sanai, I realized that he shared similar patient-centric beliefs and I was excited to learn of the Ivy Center’s promising and progressive clinical trials. We knew that this partnership would be a step in the right direction towards flipping the script on GBM,” says Colin. 

During the month of November, StacheStrong is challenging individuals, families and businesses to make a tax-deductible donation to fund brain cancer research at the Ivy Brain Tumor Center. StacheStrong will match gifts dollar-for-dollar up to $150,000 in an effort to inspire others and make an even bigger impact. These funds will go to support the Ivy Brain Tumor Center’s clinical trials of sonodynamic therapy, which has the potential of becoming a new nonsurgical therapeutic modality for treating brain tumors. Click here to learn about the positive initial results from the first-in-human clinical trial.

Support the Ivy Brain Tumor Center in November 2021 and have your gift doubled by donating here.

GJ and Colin finishing the NYC Marathon

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