The Stanford Neuro-Oncology Program Team

Adult Neuro-Oncologists

Lawrence Recht, MD
Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences
Director, Adult Neuro-Oncology

Dr. Lawrence Recht received his medical degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. He completed his training as a Resident in Neurology at Columbia Presbyterian, Neurological Institute of New York. His interest in helping people with brain tumors led him to additional training and completion of a Fellowship in Neuro-Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute in New York.

As an attending in Neurology with a specialty in Neuro-Oncology, Dr. Recht moved to the University of Massachusetts Medical School where he spent 19 years caring for patients and working in his research lab to try to find a cure for brain tumor. During this time Dr. Recht became convinced that it was better for patients to find out how and why a brain tumor evolved so that it could be treated earlier rather than directing his efforts toward treating the tumor after it had already caused disability.

In 2004, Dr Recht relocated to Stanford to work on furthering his research on Early Detection of Brain Tumor and to develop an expanded Adult Neuro-Oncology Program. Belief in hope and quality of life drives Dr. Recht and his team's practice of caring for patients and families with brain tumor and neurologic complications of cancer. Clinical studies are also provided and available for patients with specific conditions who are interested in adding experimental treatments to their care.

Efforts in Dr. Recht's research laboratory are directed towards applying early detection strategies to the treatment of brain tumors. In addition, other work in his laboratory is directed at reversing the damaging side effects of treatment-related brain injury.

Seema Nagpal, MD
Clinical Associate Professor, Neurology and Neurologial Sciences

Dr. Nagpal earned her medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania, completed Neurology residency at University of California, San Francisco and Neuro-Oncology fellowship at Stanford University. Dr. Nagpal is focused on developing therapy that increases both quantity and quality of life for patients with primary brain tumors. She also has a special interest in neurologic complications of systemic cancer, such as brain and leptomeningeal metastases. Dr. Nagpal’s research efforts include clinical trials in glioma and collaborative projects to identify the genetic under-pinnings of brain metastases.

Chirag Patel, MD, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor, Neurology & Neurological Sciences

Dr. Chirag Patel completed MD/PhD training at the MD Anderson/UT-Houston Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and UT-Houston McGovern Medical School, adult neurology residency at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, and postdoctoral and clinical neuro-oncology fellowships at Stanford University School of Medicine. His research focuses on therapeutics and diagnostics in neuro-oncology. First, he studies tumor treating fields (TTFields, a form of alternating electric fields directed at the tumor via electrodes placed on the skin), a new FDA-approved therapy for patients with glioblastoma and malignant pleural mesothelioma. Second, Dr. Patel collaborates with radiochemistry and neuroimaging colleagues to study novel PET radiotracers that may provide additional information to traditional brain MRI scans, to help determine early on whether or not the patient's brain tumor is responding to a given therapy.

Dr. Patel's research has been competitively funded by the NIH NINDS R25 Translational Neuroscience Training Grant, American Medical Association Foundation, Stanford Cancer Institute, American Brain Tumor Association, and Stanford Chemistry, Engineering & Medicine for Human Health. In the neuro-oncology clinic, Dr. Patel sees patients with tumors of the brain and spinal cord and with neurological complications of cancer therapy. Maintaining the patient's quality of life is an important component of his approach to patient care. In addition to providing standard-of-care treatments, Dr. Patel evaluates patients for eligibility in clinical trials.

Reena Thomas, MD, PhD
Clinical Associate Professor, Neurology & Neurological Sciences

Dr. Reena Thomas received her medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC and her PhD from the City of Hope Graduate School in Duarte, California. She completed her training as a resident in Neurology as well as her fellowship training in Neuro-Oncology at Stanford University Hospital. Her research background and interests are focused on immune based cancer therapies and chemokine signaling in glioblastoma brain tumors. She has also been involved in advanced imaging studies of glioblastoma. She is the Director of the Adult Neuro Oncology Fellowship at Stanford.

Adult Neuro-Oncology Fellows

Amber Ruiz, DO, MS

Nurse Practitioners

Samantha Balakrishnan, DNP, RN, CNP, FNP, ACNP

Samantha Balakrishnan, DNP, CNP, RN, ACNP, FNP is an advanced practice provider who specializes in Neuro-Oncology and treating disorders of the brain. She completed her Doctorate of Nursing Practice at the University of Washington in Seattle. She is board certified as both an acute care and family nurse practitioner, allowing her to see patients spanning the age continuum in all settings. She currently practices in the outpatient setting treating adults with primary brain tumors, brain metastases, and neurologic conditions caused by cancer treatment. 

Samantha Balakrishnan has a special interest in primary brain tumors and their treatment, palliative care and end of life, and teaching patients, families and nurses.

Gwen Coffey

Nurse Coordinators

Miaoqun Lin, BSN, RN

Mia graduated from nursing school at California State University, Chico in 2015. After working as a neuro nurse at Kentfield Hospital San Francisco and Sutter Health Mills-Peninsula Medical Center, she worked as a home health case manager who provided care for patients and families affected by health conditions including cancer and stroke. Since then Mia has found herself really enjoying working with families, managing and coordinating patient care. After that, she has joined the Stanford neuro oncology team to care for patients and families affected by brain tumors and neurological problems associated with cancer.

Justine Pena, MSN, RN

Justine Pena is a Multidisciplinary Care Coordinator who specializes in Neuro Oncology. Justine majored in Biological Sciences from the University of California Irvine and then pursued a Masters Degree in Nursing from the California State University of Dominguez Hills. After working inpatient at the University of Southern California Hospital, Justine joined Stanford Neuro Oncology in 2012. Since then she has been caring for patients and families affected by brain tumors and neurologic conditions of cancer. 

Samantha Quintanar, BSN, RN

Samantha graduated from nursing school at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale Tennessee. In 2016 she began her nursing career inpatient at Loma Linda Medical Center working in plastics, orthopedics and urology. After a few years, her interest in urology brought her to the outpatient oncology setting at City of Hope where she worked with patients diagnosed with prostate, bladder and kidney cancer. 

Since that time Samantha has joined the Stanford Neuro Oncology team where she coordinates and manages care for patients diagnosed with brain cancer, and other neurological complications of cancer. 

Neuro-Oncology Clinical Trials

Sophie Bertrand, CCRP
Clinical Research Manager

Sophie Bertrand received her Bachelor of Arts from Rosemont College in Pennsylvania. She has worked on cancer clinical trials at Stanford since 2009 and joined the Neuro-Oncology team in 2012. As a research coordinator, she works with physicians and patients to ensure that trials are run following good clinical practices.

Clarisha Ware
Clinical Research Coordinator

Clarisha Ware graduated in 2018 from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. During her undergraduate career, she was able to participate in programs for aspiring medical professionals at UCSF, UCLA, and UC Davis. Clarisha hopes to one day pursue a career in medicine working with underserved communities. She joined the Neuro-Oncology team in 2019.

Priya Yerraballa, MBBS
Clinical Research Coordinator

Priya received her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree from Kurnool Medical College of Dr. NTR University of Health Sciences, India. She has worked on clinical trials at Stanford since 2008. She joined the Neuro-Oncology team at Stanford in 2016. As a research coordinator, she works with physicians and patients to ensure that trials are run following good clinical practices.