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New neuro-oncology chief aims to expand clinical trials and collaborations at VCU Massey Cancer Center

Mariza Daras, M.D., started in her new role on September 1.

Massey sign outside of the VCU Health Adult Outpatient Pavillion The appointment of a new chief of neuro-oncology will give VCU Massey Cancer Center a much-needed expansion of its neuro-oncology services. (VCU Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

By Annie Harris

VCU Massey Cancer Center and the Department of Neurology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine have appointed Mariza Daras, M.D., as the new chief of the division of neuro-oncology. Daras started in the role on September 1.

Daras specializes in the care of patients with a diagnosis of a primary brain tumor, including glioblastoma, meningioma and low-grade glioma. She also treats patients with metastases that have spread to the brain or central nervous system from other areas of the body.

“I’m excited to help develop a program that serves Richmond’s diverse community and provides care that will help brain tumor patients live better and longer,” Daras said.

Woman smiling, she has blonde hair and a blue shirt on.

Mariza Daras, M.D., is the new chief of neuro-oncology at Massey Cancer Center. (Contributed photo)

The appointment of a new chief of neuro-oncology will allow Massey a much-needed expansion of its neuro-oncology services. Daras says she hopes to bring more collaborations to Massey with other leading institutions in the region and nationwide, attracting more clinical trials to benefit neuro-oncology patients.

Another important focus for Daras is diversifying the neuro-oncology workforce, an initiative she has been involved in on a national scale through the American Academy of Neurology, as well as supporting more opportunities for patients of all backgrounds to get involved with research.

“It’s important to advocate for patients to have access to clinical trials and novel therapies,” Daras said. “Clinical trials for patients with brain tumors haven’t always included people most affected. I’m excited to be part of a growing effort to design more inclusive trials that are representative of everyone in our community and can better inform the real-world treatment of patients.”

The neuro-oncology team at Massey — recently recognized as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute — also includes Lauren Story, a family nurse practitioner (FNP), and is home to a nationally-recognized neuropsychology clinical and research program, the LiveNOW Lab, led by Ashlee Loughan, Ph.D. Brain tumor patients at Massey have access to unique neuro-cognitive resources, as well as a growing number of clinical trials delivering cutting-edge therapies.

“We’re thrilled to have Dr. Daras’ expertise and leadership in growing a clinical translational and research program that meets the complex needs of patients with brain and other central nervous system tumors,” said Paula Fracasso, M.D., Ph.D., Massey’s deputy director and senior vice president of the cancer service line at VCU Health. “She brings a collaborative approach that will strengthen our multi-disciplinary services and improve patient access and care.”

Daras previously served as associate professor of neurology in the division of neuro-oncology at UC San Francisco, treating patients at its Brain Tumor Center. She earned her medical degree from Columbia University and completed her neurology residency at Duke University Medical Center, followed by a neuro-oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Daras is a member of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), Society for Neuro-Oncology and American Society of Clinical Oncology. She is an appointed member of AAN’s Committee on Public Engagement.

“Dr. Daras is a nationally prominent clinician-scientist who is passionate about ensuring every person with a brain tumor has access to the highest quality care, including exciting experimental therapies,” said Gordon Smith, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at the VCU School of Medicine. “Her collaborative and humanistic approach to health care will serve our community and the commonwealth well. I couldn’t be more excited to welcome her VCU.”

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