10 U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R

Receives Brain SPORE

Cancer Center

“ALL I was thinking was, ‘Out of all

cancers to have, it’s this one?’ I immedi-

ately knew what we were up against,” Mrs.

Robinson recalls. She and her husband came

to the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center

to see neuro-oncologist Burt Nabors, M.D.,

setting them on a journey that ultimately

brought Mrs. Robinson to her current posi-

tion as a patient advocate and research

nurse coordinator in the UAB Division of

Neurosurgery.

Since her husband’s death in July 2001,

Mrs. Robinson has found comfort in help-

ing other patients and their families cope

with this complex and devastating disease.

She looks forward to the triumphs, even

as they are few and far between. Recently,

one of those triumphs came in the form of a

Specialized Program of Research Excellence

(SPORE) grant from the National Cancer

Institute for $2.3 million. The Cancer Center

and the Division of Neurosurgery received

the prestigious grant—one of only four of its

kind in the country—to conduct research and

develop new therapies to treat brain tumors.

Each year, nearly 20,000 Americans are

diagnosed with primary brain tumors, the

majority of which are malignant. Because

the tumors arise from and spread within the

brain, they can produce a host of devastating

neurologic problems, from seizures, personal-

ity change and loss of memory and judgment

to full paralysis.

A patient’s prognosis depends on a num-

ber of factors including type, location, size

and stage of development of the tumor.

Because the brain is protected by the skull,

the detection of a brain tumor usually only

comes after the individual begins suffering

symptoms—by which time the disease is

in its advanced stages. Most patients with

malignant primary brain tumors live no lon-

ger than one or two years after diagnosis.  

“When you’re dealing with brain can-

cer, you’re dealing with a disease that is

multifaceted and affects your whole well-

IN SEPTEMBER 2000, BIRMINGHAM RESIDENT JAY ROBINSON, A HEALTHY 38-YEAR-OLD WITH

NO FAMILY HISTORY OF CANCER, BEGAN EXPERIENCING NUMBNESS IN HIS FOOT. WITHIN THREE

DAYS, THE NUMBNESS HAD PROGRESSED FURTHER UP HIS BODY, AND HIS PERIPHERAL VISION AND

BALANCE WERE BEING AFFECTED. HIS WIFE, CATHIE ROBINSON, THEN A NEUROLOGY NURSE,

PERFORMED A NEUROLOGIC ASSESSMENT. SHE DIDN’T SAY MUCH. A DOCTOR’S VISIT AND AN MRI

CONFIRMED HER SUSPICIONS: HER HUSBAND HAD A MALIGNANT, INOPERABLE BRAIN TUMOR. B Y B E E N A T H A N N I C K A L