Shands at UF patient winning his battle against brain cancer

Published: October 26th, 2011

Category: Patient Stories

When Matt Dumas and his grandparents, Ron and Marie Dumas, met Erin Dunbar, MD, for the first time at Shands at the University of Florida, they were anxious, confused and searching for answers.

Matt had come with his grandparents to Shands because he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor the size of a lemon in the center of his brain.

However, the Dumases recall immediately being put at ease when they began to discuss Matt’s condition with Dr. Dunbar, clinical assistant professor for neuro-oncology and co-director of The Preston A. Wells, Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy at UF.

“It was just amazing how Dr. Dunbar made us feel when she began talking to us,” Marie said. “When we left our home in Inverness that day, it was just a heart-wrenching trip to Gainesville. But then she just took over. She told us this is workable and it can be treated. Her confidence made us confident, and it gave us faith that we could do this.”

Matt, who lives in a special group home for developmentally disabled adults, started complaining of nausea in the spring of 2011. His supervisor at his home noticed that Matt was losing his appetite. He was coming home from work, skipping dinner and going directly to bed.

Matt’s weight soon dipped dangerously low, and he was taken to the local hospital. After an initial examination, an MRI of his head revealed the tumor.

Marie and Matt were together when the physician told them the news. Both of them began to cry. Marie then called her husband of 54 years at his office and told him the news. Ron, always emotionally strong, broke down in front of his co-workers for the first time in his life.

“I just couldn’t handle it. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say,” Ron recalled. “It was just such a tough blow.”

The Dumas family realized that Matt’s best treatment option was to come to Shands at UF. There they learned that Matt’s tumor was so precariously located within his brain that surgery was not an option. A biopsy confirmed that Matt’s tumor was lymphoma. Chemotherapy was now Matt’s best hope in winning this battle.

“Thankfully, Matt is fairing quite well in his battle,” Dr. Dunbar said. “We are successfully fighting his tumor, and everyone is thrilled with the great progress he is making.”

Matt has just a few more rounds of chemotherapy to go and his prognosis is very promising. Matt, Ron and Marie said they truly appreciate the expert care and special touches they receive from everyone at Shands at UF. As for the anxiety, confusion and fear the Dumas family once felt, Matt – with his trademark beaming smile – put it best.

“I am very happy,” Matt said. “I was scared, but I am not scared anymore.”


If you are interested in making a gift to support the life-saving work Dr. Dunbar and her multidisciplinary neuro-oncology team undertake, click one of the two options:
Neuro-Oncology Patient and Caregiver Fund
Preston A. Wells, Jr. Endowment for Teaching, Research and Programs in Neuro-Oncology Fund

Your gift will go directly to fund innovative research and scientific collaboration. Some examples of the innovative research Dr. Dunbar’s team is engaged in are:

  • novel drug development that keeps tumors in check through modifying the metabolism of cancer cells instead of traditional chemotherapy
  • creative ways to manage the symptoms of treatments and tumors to enhance day-to-day living
  • optimizing quality-of-life for both patients and care givers through the development of electronic technologies and support groups.

Your support will also help her team take part in national and international conferences that provide unique opportunities for exchange of ideas and presentation of discoveries vital to advancing life-saving work. It is only through private gifts that Dr. Dunbar’s team is able to participate in these activities.

If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Dunbar’s work, please visit her web page at You can also visit to learn more about the exciting clinical trials that she and her team are engaged in.