Honoring a brother's legacy by supporting brain cancer research
In 2000, Chris Anthony visited MD Anderson for a consultation with Mark Gilbert, M.D. Chris had been diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and most aggressive brain tumor, and had undergone surgery to remove his tumor just two weeks earlier.
Chris had traveled to MD Anderson with wife, Kirsten, and brother, Matt. All three understood the seriousness of his diagnosis and low survival rate of less than two years. They felt Chris could receive the best treatment possible at MD Anderson.
Chris immediately felt comfortable with Dr. Gilbert -- his honesty and candor, balanced with optimism and compassion.
Entering a revolution to cure brain cancer
"I remember Chris asking Dr. Gilbert about the odds and the path forward, both in length of time and quality of life," Matt says.
Dr. Gilbert told them: "We're on an evolution, a path to successful outcomes. Every evolution ultimately has a revolution. That revolution will be a cure for brain cancer, and you're entering into that path."
"They were words of hope without unrealistic expectations, a scientist's perspective delivered in a human way," Matt says.
For more than two years, Chris battled his brain cancer with dignity, grace, peace of mind and unimaginable courage. He and his family formed a partnership with Dr. Gilbert and his team, coupling access to innovative treatment while caring for the whole person. He ultimately lost his battle on Feb. 10, 2003.
The birth of Head for the Cure
Chris was an avid runner, with an unmatched competitive spirit. He loved to exercise and compete. So, in his memory and in honor of others suffering from brain cancer, Kirsten, Matt and their family and friends started a 5K run/walk in the Kansas City area. They called it Head for the Cure (HFTC).
The first race in 2003 had 400 runners. This year, HFTC is expecting over 12,000 participants in 15 cities, including Houston, which hosts its event on Sept. 13. By 2018, Anthony expects to host 25 5Ks each year.
Matt recalls Chris often saying, "If I can help one person, then that will be the answer to the question of why I was faced with this disease." More than a decade later, Chris' legacy has positively impacted the lives of thousands, thanks to his brother's promise to raise money for brain cancer research at MD Anderson.
Starting the Brain Tumor Trials Collaborative
These events have contributed more than $2 million to Brain Tumor Trials Collaborative, a network of 23 medical centers led by MD Anderson and Gilbert, the principal investigator. Gilbert believes the collaboration maximizes the benefits of research by reaching more brain cancer patients with new treatments and state-of-the-art clinical trials.
"The concept was to bring together centers that have exceptional physicians and brain tumor programs to quickly vet the most innovative clinical trials and bring treatment to patients," Gilbert says.
"I know Chris would be proud and honored, but not surprised," says Matt, reflecting on HFTC's rapid growth and overwhelming success. "I'm sad he's not here, but HFTC is an intensely positive event, and that's because Chris's spirit, character, courage and motivation are its driving forces."