Cristian Rivera Foundation

Medical Advisory Board

Mark M. Souweidane, MD

Dr. Mark M. Souweidane is Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at New York-Presbyterian-Komansky Children’s Hospital and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He is the Vice Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. His primary career objective has been to improve the outcome for children with primary central nervous system tumors, including diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG).

Dr. Souweidane’s research is focused on enhancing drug delivery to the brain and brain tumors of children.  Specifically, the Souweidane laboratory is testing a form of direct delivery called convection-enhanced delivery (CED) towards the treatment of DIPG. This work translated into a Phase I clinical trial, “Convection-Enhanced Delivery of 124I-8H9 for Patients With Non-Progressive Diffuse Pontine Gliomas Previously Treated With External Beam Radiation Therapy” (P.I.: M.M. Souweidane, NCT01502917). The trial began enrolling patients in May of 2012 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and remains open for patient accrual. Through the Pediatric Brain Cancer Tumor Consortium (PBTC) it is expected that this innovative clinical trial will be offered across North America in the forthcoming year.

Dr. Souweidane is the co-director the Weill Cornell Children’s Brain Tumor Project (CBTP) and a member of the Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Souweidane chairs the neurosurgery committee and is on the steering committee of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG).  This year he was named to the NCI’s Brain Malignancy Steering Committee.

Dr. Souweidane completed his undergraduate training at the University of Michigan, where he graduated with honors in Microbiology. He attended Wayne State University Medical School as a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. He completed his general surgery internship at University of Michigan Hospitals and subsequently did his neurosurgery residency at New York University under the direction of Drs. Joseph Ransohoff and Fred Epstein. Dr. Souweidane completed his fellowship pediatric neurosurgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada.

Dr. Oren Becher

Oren J. Becher, MD

Dr. Oren J. Becher is a pediatric neuro-oncologist who has dedicated his career to improving therapies for children with brain and spinal cord tumors with a particular focus on identifying effective therapies for children with DIPG. He is both a physician and a scientist, spending time caring for children with cancer and leading a research laboratory. Dr. Becher is currently faculty at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital and the Lurie Cancer center at Northwestern University where he is an associate professor in the department of Pediatrics. He has received numerous awards including being named a St. Baldrick’s scholar, a Forbeck scholar, a Rory David Deutsch scholar, a Stewart scholar, a Hyundai Hope on Wheels Scholar, and a Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator. He is currently receiving research support from the National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society, Alex Lemonade Stand Foundation, Cure Childhood Cancer, Andrew McDonough Foundation, and the DIPG collaborative.  In addition, Dr. Becher is on the advisory board for several foundations including the Cristian Rivera Foundation, Rally Foundation, the Fly the Kite Foundation, the Making Headway foundation, Defeat DIPG foundation, and Joshua’s Wish foundation.

Dr. Oren J. Becher completed his undergraduate training at the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double major in biochemistry and economics. He subsequently attended the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. It was during his years at Johns Hopkins that Dr. Becher realized his passion to care for children with cancer. He then went on to complete a pediatric residency at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC. This is where he began research on pediatric brain tumors, working in the laboratory of Dr. Tobey MacDonald. Dr. Becher moved to NY to pursue a fellowship in Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at Cornell/Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

During his fellowship in NY, Dr. Becher realized that there is a desperate need for an improved understanding of the biology of pediatric brain tumors. Therefore, he joined the laboratory of Eric Holland at MSKCC in 2004 and spent six years applying genetic mouse models of brain tumors as tools to improve our understanding of pediatric brain tumors.   Dr. Becher made several important discoveries while in Dr. Holland’s laboratory including the development of the first genetically engineered mouse model for DIPG. While at MSKCC he also initiated two clinical trials for children with recurrent solid tumors (perifosine alone and perifosine + temsirolimus). In September 2010, he moved with his family to North Carolina to establish an independent laboratory at Duke that focuses on DIPG. At Duke, Dr. Becher’s lab made important discoveries regarding the biology of DIPG including the co-discovery of ACVR1 mutations in 25% of children with DIPG and developing additional DIPG genetic mouse models that incorporate novel drivers such as the histone 3 (H3) K27M mutations and the ACVR1 mutations.  In December 2016, Dr. Becher moved to Chicago to continue his efforts to find a cure for DIPG at Northwestern University and Lurie Children’s Hospital. His laboratory is focused on identifying promising therapies to translate into clinical trials for children with DIPG.

Loice Swisher, MD

Loice entered the world of medicine when starting at Temple University Medical School in 1985 subsequently pursing residency in Emergency Medicine. This was followed by a fellowship in Medical Education followed by an academic career with teaching and research focused on doctor-patient communication. The academic track came to an abrupt end when her then 5 year old daughter was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma brain tumor in 1999. The surgery neurologically devastated her coming out blind, mute and paralyzed. Despite having to relearn everything, radiation and chemotherapy were needed to save her life. At the end of treatment, Loice decided to combined her medical education as a professional and a parent to try to help other families struggling with pediatric brain tumors. Her passion has been to provide greater information to parents and to create internet communities. Over that time, Loice has worked with many different foundations and groups. Although DIPG is not ‘her tumor’, it is one that has touched her heart deeply having watched several friends lose their children to this terrible disease. In 2007, she started to focus almost all her time on creating a DIPG internet community through a DIPG Yahoo Group and working with different DIPG specific organizations. Through these correspondences Loice met Cristian Rivera. When John Rivera started the Cristian Rivera Foundation she was quite interested in development and was pleased to accept a position as a scientfic advisor.