The first 'long-term survivor' in a new brain tumor study is giving doctors hope.
Photo courtesy Duke University.

Stephanie Hopper wasn't expected to live much longer.

In 2011, she was only 20-years-old when she received a diagnosis of stage 4 glioblastoma.


Glioblastoma is a malignant brain tumor affecting an estimated 200,000 people in the U.S. each year. The survival rate is incredibly low and can technically never be "cured."

But Hopper got lucky when she tried an innovative new treatment. She was the first patient in a study that used a modified version of the polio vaccine to attack cancer cells, and Hopper went into remission. Today, she's working as a pediatric oncology nurse and was recently married. She still has occasional seizures, but is receiving medication to help control them.

"I believe wholeheartedly that it was the cure for me," Hooper, now 27, said about the treatment. "Most people wouldn't guess that I had brain cancer."

It's not a miracle cure, but the treatment does hold promise for future treatments.

The study Hopper took part in is making headlines because of the promise it shows for other patients diagnosed with glioblastoma, a condition that has received a lot of attention this year particularly because of the diagnosis given to U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Only 21% of those taking part in the Duke University study have experienced "long term survival." Researchers involved in the study say that's primarily because different people have responded differently to the introduction of the modified polio vaccine.

Those leading the study are quick to caution against unfounded optimism, but are still very excited about its potential, even with the small sounding success rate from the first trial group.

"I've been doing this for 50 years and I've never seen results like this," said  Dr. Darell Bigner.

With the promising early results, they're now hoping to expand the test group to more people.

"The big question is, how can we make sure that everybody responds?” said Dr. Annick Desjardins, who was part of the study team.

The modified poliovirus used in the study, courtesy Duke University.

Stephanie Hopper is a story of hope. It's also one grounded in the promise of science and medical research.

Anyone affected by cancer — directly or through a friend or family member — knows just how important hope is.

Having something to believe in can make all the difference for an individual, but it can also offer inspiration to every young person out there thinking about a career in medicine as a researcher or health care provider. And having people like Hopper to root for makes it a cause even more worth fighting for.

Courtesy of CeraVe
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From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

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via The Walt Disney Company / Flickr

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Courtesy of CeraVe
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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