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 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.

Kate E. Therkelsen MD
Clinical Assistant Professor, Neurology & Neurological Sciences

Kate Therkelsen received her medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine and then completed her residency in neurology at Stanford. She followed this with a fellowship in neuro-oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Clinically she focuses on primary brain and central nervous system tumors, metastatic disease to the central nervous system, and neurologic complications of cancer and cancer treatment. Her research interests include primary CNS lymphoma treatment options and long-term functional status of PCNSL survivors, as well as the unique behaviors of hypermutated gliomas.

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.

David Rogawski, MD, PhD
Instructor, Neurology & Neurological Sciences

Dr. Rogawski is Instructor in the Neuro-Oncology Division and research fellow in the Monje Lab. He received his bachelor's degree from Williams College, master's degree from the University of Otago in New Zealand, and MD and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan. He completed neurology residency and clinical fellowship in neuro-oncology at Stanford. His interests include cancer neuroscience, leptomeningeal disease, and development of new therapies for brain cancer.

Adult Neuro-Oncology Fellows

Toni Cao, MD

Toni received her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience at Vanderbilt University. She then returned home to Chicago where she completed medical school at Northwestern and then stayed at Northwestern for neurology residency. During that time, she gained an interest in neuro-oncology, medical education and also served as Administrative/Scheduling Chief during her final year. She has won several teaching and interdisciplinary awards throughout residency. In her free time she enjoys playing tennis, running (slowly), and finding the best ice cream flavors out there.

Advanced Practice Providers

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

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. 

Eleanor Villanueva, PA-C

Eleanor Villanueva completed her Master’s Degree in Physician Assistant studies at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, CA. As a provider, she strongly believes in patient advocacy through patient education and empowering them to make well-informed decisions. Her training also allowed her to serve a diverse group of patients in community health centers and FQHCs which have molded and strengthened her passion in patient advocacy. Prior to her PA training, she was a part of the SHCE Radiology team, and a volunteer at LPCH.  

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.

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.