From Junior Researcher to Renowned Neurosurgeon

Dr. Linda Liau’s credentials are many: Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, internationally renowned neurosurgeon and researcher, editor of the Journal of Neuro-Oncology, creator of one of the first personalized brain cancer vaccines designed to attack deadly glioblastomas and, most recently, elected to the National Academy of Medicine.

But one credential makes her extremely grateful: being the recipient of a research grant from the American Brain Tumor Association back in 1996.  That grant also represented her first grant and introduction to the “brain tumor world.”

“The American Brain Tumor Association was the organization that funded my first postdoctoral research project. They had enough faith in me to make this initial investment and I have been grateful to them ever since.”

A press release following her being named chair of the department at UCLA refer to her as a “trailblazing neurosurgeon and scientist known for her scientific brilliance, surgical skill and compassion for her patients.”

“Liau has devoted the past 20 years to developing and refining innovative treatment strategies for tackling glioblastoma, the most aggressive and lethal type of brain tumor,” according to the press release.

It went on to say she has been continuously funded by the NIH for the past two decades and has 150 research articles credited to her, along with being the author of several book chapters and textbooks. She was the lead investigator and inventor of an experimental brain cancer vaccine — triggering the patient’s own immune system to fight off remaining cancer cells.

“I have a huge drive to prove that things that seem impossible can actually work,” said Liau. “When I first started working on brain tumor immunotherapy, everyone told me that you can’t mount an immune response in the brain. Now we know that’s not true.”

Clinically, UCLA said she was internationally recognized as an expert in intra-operative brain mapping and complex brain tumor surgery “attracting patients from all around the world.” At the time of her appointment as chair, she was only the second woman to chair an academic department of neurosurgery in the United States.

She says that donations to the American Brain Tumor Association are important because research is crucial for young investigators who need this support to get preliminary data necessary to compete for larger federal NIH or other grants to study brain tumors. She and her team recently received an $11.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute for a specialized program of research excellence (SPORE) for brain tumor studies, focusing on converting discoveries made in the lab to new treatments for patients.


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Mindee Plugues

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Mindee J. Plugues, of Los Angeles, CA, is vice president, marketing for the Applebee’s brand and brings skills including brand strategy, executive leadership, and marketing to the board. Plugues has been an ABTA donor since April 2001, following her father’s passing from GBM. She is also a former member of the ABTA endurance program, Team Breakthrough.

Bob Kruchten

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Bob Kruchten, of Mount Prospect, IL, is a sales manager at Extreme Reach, a leading advertising technology company. He has strong skills in communications and fundraising, and has been advocating for the ABTA for 19 years in tribute to his best friend, Paul Fabbri, who lost his 10-year battle with GBM in 1998. Kruchten accepted the ABTA’s Joel A. Gingras Jr. Award in 2015 on behalf of the Paul Fabbri Memorial Fund.