Summer academy student's work on neural stem cells is tribute to father

August 7, 2014 | by Darrin Joy

Stevee Rowe has a very personal connection to the research she’s conducting on neural stem cells: Her late father participated in a City of Hope clinical trial involving neural stem cells.

Student Stevee Rowe Stevee Rowe is researching neural stem cells through the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy. (Photo by Darrin S. Joy)

Rowe — her full name is Alissa Stevee Rowe, but she prefers to use her middle name — will enter her senior year at the University of California, Riverside, this fall. She currently is enrolled in the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy. Her project examines neural stem cells used to target brain cancer.

Her father, Steven Keith Rowe, was a patient at City of Hope who enrolled in a clinical trial to treat his brain tumor with neural stem cells. “My father wanted to help further research and was always willing to try anything he could,” she said. Now she hopes to do the same.

A loving father and husband

An outdoor enthusiast, Keith Rowe (who, like his daughter, preferred to use his middle name) often would take Stevee and her two sisters exploring near their Victorville, California, home when they were young. They would search for lizards, frogs, snakes and other desert creatures.

“He taught us the meaning in life and to always be kind to animals. This is one of my best memories with my father,” Rowe said.

Married to Isabel Rowe for nearly 30 years, Keith was diagnosed in August 2010 at age 47 with glioma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. After initial treatment at another medical facility, Rowe persuaded her parents to seek a second opinion at City of Hope. Two weeks later, her father underwent a brain scan at City of Hope. The test revealed the tumor was still present, and Keith was admitted for treatment.

Following a two-year battle that included surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and three clinical trials, Keith succumbed to the disease. Though saddened by their loss, Rowe and her family are grateful for the extra time Keith gained through treatment at City of Hope.

A chance to further her father’s legacy

While her father received treatment at City of Hope, Rowe would sometimes see summer academy students on campus. She decided to apply for an academy position and was accepted for this year’s session.

Ultimately, Rowe hopes her efforts during the summer help advance trials like the one in which her father participated. Beyond her summer academy work at City of Hope, she aims to enter medical school after graduating from the university.

“If I can get into medical school, I want to be an oncologist,” she said. “It’s the only specialty I’d consider.” That focus just might be what her future patients — perhaps those like her father — need to turn the tide on the disease.


Learn more about the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy at City of Hope and about our brain tumor research.


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