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New vaccine helps doctor fight brain cancer

Al Musella's Comments: (This is his personal views and are not necessarily the views of the Musella Foundation!)


Posted on: 09/15/2006

New vaccine helps doctor fight brain cancer

By Christi Myers

- Huge strides have been made against some cancers but not against brain cancer -- at least not until now. There is a new brain cancer vaccine that is putting study patients into remission.

Dr. Sam Hassenbusch is a brain surgeon and got brain cancer. He says he used his motorcycle to help him deal with his illness.


"That's the time I had an operation, radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy and I still rode 9,000 miles," said Dr. Hassenbusch.

Dr. Hassenbusch is still alive despite having Glioblastoma, a brain cancer that is almost universally fatal.

"I've seen mothers with a newborn child three percent survival in five years," said Dr. Hassenbusch. "I gave up asking why a long time ago. It happens."

The cruel irony is that he has dedicated his life to saving people with brain cancer. Within a week of his brain surgery he was back in the OR.

"I had the same OR crew that had taken care of me a week earlier," said Dr. Hassenbusch. "(The) same scrub nurse, circulating nurse. You should see their faces light up when I walked in the OR."

He hasn't returned to the complex craniotomies he used to do but hopes to soon. But his very survival is remarkable.

"I'm blessed. Sixteen months after diagnosis, my latest MRI two days ago is clean," said Dr. Hassenbusch. "No evidence of tumor no suspicious areas, praise the Lord. It is great."

Besides his faith, he credits a new shot. It's an experimental vaccine against Glioblastoma. The brain cancer vaccine study opened in Houston last year just when he was diagnosed.

"I was in the right place at the right time," said Dr. Hassenbusch.

About 30 patients in the U.S. are in the Glioblastoma vaccine trail.

"I think we may be onto a cure for Glioblastoma which is phenomenal I never even thought I would see it in my lifetime," said Dr. Hassenbusch.

Dr. Hassenbusch is also getting a new chemotherapy that works better against brain cancer. He and his wife, Rhonda, spoke to cancer survivors at an M.D. Anderson program Friday. They've been married 34 years and she says it's weird being the doctor's wife.

"When he gets his blood work he'll be in there and someone will recognize him because that was his patient," said Dr. Hassenbusch's wife Rhonda.

Dr. Hassenbusch is eager to tell his story of survival.

"I want to be an inspiration and encouragement to other cancer patients, make some sense of all this I'm going through," said Dr. Hassenbusch.

Six hundred cancer patients and family members attended M.D. Anderson's "Living Fully with & Beyond Cancer" seminar. Eyewitness News Health Check reporter Christi Myers served as the master of ceremonies for the survivors' panel.
(Copyright © 2006, KTRK-TV)

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