Thursday, December 26, 2019

Dr. Stathopoulos: Humanitarian of the Year for 2019

An internationally renowned neurosurgeon and CEO is revolutionizing the treatment of patients with brain cancer.

Apolstolos Stathopoulos photographed at his office in Belgium in May of 2017 | Photograph by Thierry du Bois 
Dr. Apolstolos Stathopoulos knew he had to make a big a change.

Less than 10% of the terminally-ill brain cancer patients he consulted with were eligible to access the experimental cancer vaccine he was studying.

After turning down yet another father who sought to participate in his clinical trial, Stathopoulos resolved to meet the needs of a larger demographic.

Under state and federal 'Right to Try' laws, he knew he could provide the treatment to a majority of the people who ended up in his office, so he took the plunge and opened up a first-of-its-kind program for Glioblastoma patients who are not eligible for clinical trials.

“This program has made a huge difference for people facing brain cancer,” said Dr. Benjamin Freilich, whose brother is now receiving the vaccine, known as Gliovac (ERC1671). “It's exciting to see more physicians and drug developers follow Dr. Stathopoulos' lead.”

Patients nominated several doctors and biotech CEOs for the Humanitarian of the Year 2019 Award, but Stathopoulos was ultimately selected as the recipient due to his comprehensive, ethical approach to providing access to patients not eligible for clinical trials.

One nominee planned to use the new Right to Try law to treat patients suffering from a rare neurodegenerative disorder, but his company backed out of the program after being met with anger and resistance at the highest levels of academia and medicine.

Stathopoulos on the other hand has persisted in the face of unfair criticism and biased media coverage, convinced that providing more choices to a greater number of Glioblastoma patients is the right thing to do.

"I commend Dr. Stathopoulos for his commitment to caring for patients who have run out of treatment options," said Frank Burroughs, co-founder and President of the Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs, a non-profit organization that has advocated for wider access to experimental treatments since 2001.

Stathopoulos's company, Epitopoietic Research Corporation (ERC), has provided access to seven Glioblastoma patients under Right to Try laws in the last year. Advocates are hopeful the company will triple that number in 2020.

Under the new fderal law, companies are only allowed to recoup the direct costs of providing access to patients.

Though insurers have so far refused to cover any costs for patients in Right to Try programs, ERC has provided Gliovac for free and at reduced cost in several cases.