Turning Loss into Hope for Children Battling Brain Cancer

Lisa Gaa always had a profound love of children. As a nurse, she dedicated her life to caring for babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

In December of 2016, Lisa was unexpectedly diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. While she fought to defy the prognosis, the statistics, and the timelines given to her, she lost her battle with this unforgiving disease.

As her husband grappled with the loss of his best friend, he chose to fund ABTA pediatric research in memory of Lisa’s love of children. Brian worked with the ABTA to support pediatric research that aims to improve the lives of children and their families impacted with a brain cancer diagnosis.

The ABTA matched up Brian with Kristen Yeom, MD, assistant professor of pediatric radiology with Stanford University Medical Center. Through this partnership, the ABTA was able to award Dr. Yeom with a Discovery Grant of $50,000 to explore opportunities to discover non-invasive ways to diagnose Medulloblastoma brain cancer in children.

Medulloblastoma is a cancerous brain tumor affecting between 250-500 children each year. Typically, diagnosed through invasive brain biopsies and genetic testing, Dr. Yeom hopes to correlate imaging and genomic data so that in the future, Medulloblastomas can be diagnosed with non-invasive MRIs and not require biopsies and expensive genomic testing. Dr. Yeom’s research is expected to be completed in early 2020.

From great loss to great hope, the Gaa family, the ABTA and Dr. Yeom strive to make an impact on the lives of all children affected by brain cancer.

Help the ABTA to continue funding pediatric brain cancer research.


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Mindee Plugues


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


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.