Rapid Autopsy


In Memoriam...

Ralston Eric Fraser +

Ralston Eric Fraser In 2005, at age 23 Ralston Eric Fraser suffered a grand mal seizure while on his way home from work and was rushed to Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, where a large tumor was found on the left temporal lobe of the brain. He underwent surgery to remove the tumor which was determined to be Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (ATRT). Although the prognosis was grim, he remained positive and hopeful that he would beat cancer. He was accepted in a clinical trial at National Institute of Health, Bethesda MD where he received radiation, oral and intravenous chemotherapy and remained cancer free for 14 years.

In January 2019, he started having headaches and loss of his peripheral vision in his right eye. He returned to Medstar Georgetown and underwent surgery to remove two tumors. He participated in a clinical trial at NIH using nivolumab/opdivo to shrink or slow the growth of the tumors. After a month, the MRI showed that the tumor was growing rapidly and his participation in the program ended. He met with the Oncologist at the Lombardi Cancer Center Medstar Georgetown on 5/3/19 and was scheduled to begin intravenous chemotherapy on 5/10/19; however, he did not begin treatment as he was readmitted in the early morning of 5/4/19 because of excruciating headaches. The MRI showed that the tumors were growing rapidly and after consultation the Neurosurgery and Oncology teams determined that additional surgery and chemotherapy would not be beneficial. Ralston made the decision to go home with hospice care. He died at home on 5/21/19 at 3:58 am surrounded by his family.

Ralston was a loving, caring, compassionate and selfless young man. This caring selflessness was what lead him to decide to donate his organs to science in hopes that it will lead to a better understanding and possibly a cure for brain cancer.

Ralston graduated from High Point High School, Beltsville, MD and attended Lincoln Technical Institute where he studied automotive technology. His interests included playing basketball, cooking and working on cars. His plan was to open his own auto repair shop in the near future. He leaves behind family and friends to cherish his memory.

Sleep well my son until we meet again.


Alexandra Marie Lebovic +

Alexandra Marie Lebovic Alexandra Marie Lebovic passed away February 6, 2019 after a four-year battle with Ewing's Sarcoma. She was 23 years old. Alex made the most of her 23 years. She had a passion for life that included travel, learning, adventure and animals. Her lifelong dream was to become a veterinarian.

A former resident of Bel Air, MD, Alex graduated from Patterson Mill High School in 2013 where she was a four-year member of the track and field team, a three-year member of the field hockey team, a four-year member of the orchestra and a member of the French National Honor Society and the Tri-M Music Honor Society.

Upon graduation from Patterson Mill, Alex was accepted into the Animal Science program at the University of Maryland in College Park. She enjoyed an active academic and social life as a member of the Dean's List, Primannum Honor Society, Terps for Animal Welfare and the Delta Delta Delta sorority. She also worked at Hyattsville Animal Hospital to gain experience for her veterinary career.

As a junior at University of Maryland, Alex was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma - a rare form of cancer that affects bones and soft tissue. In Alex's case, the main tumor site was her left femur. There was also a small nodule in her left lung. In the middle of her junior year, she was told, "You have metastatic Ewing's Sarcoma. The five-year survival rate is 30 percent."

With her new puppy, Dakota by her side, Alex endured months of chemotherapy, followed by surgery to remove most of her left femur, followed by more months of chemotherapy, followed by radiation. Throughout this grueling treatment, Alex remained enrolled in the University of Maryland. She took classes online during the spring and summer semesters. She and Dakota returned to campus in the fall of 2016, going to classes in the morning and Johns Hopkins Hospital in the afternoon for chemotherapy and radiation.

She was declared cancer-free in the fall of her senior year. She returned to work at Hyattsville Animal Hospital, worked as a research assistant for one of her professors, interned at the National Institute of Health, completed her studies and graduated with her classmates in May of 2017.

Because of her illness, Alex missed the application deadline to start veterinary school in the fall of 2017. She identified her top choice as University of Florida and moved with Dakota to St. Petersburg in August to establish Florida residency for 2018. Alex spent the year enjoying everything Florida had to offer and working as a veterinary nurse at Northeast Animal Hospital in St. Petersburg. She was accepted into the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine's Class of 2022 in May of 2018.

Just weeks before Alex was to start vet school, her cancer recurred. She was encouraged by her family and her doctors to put off vet school and focus on cancer treatment, but she insisted on moving forward. She finished 18th in her class at UFCVM last fall in spite of starting chemotherapy two weeks before the semester, taking a two-week break to have a tumor the size of a grapefruit removed from her leg, enduring radiation treatments for the second half of the semester and, before her last exams, being hospitalized for a week because she was in so much pain all she could do was lie in bed and cry. Two days after taking her last exam, she returned to Maryland where the doctors at Hopkins told her she would lose her battle.

Alex was a remarkable young woman - kind, compassionate, smart, determined, adventurous and beautiful. She was taken from this world too soon. Her family is determined that her name and spirit will live on and are in the process of forming a foundation to support causes Alex loved.


Gail Bragg +

Gail Bragg Linda Gail (nee Steeves) Bragg
December 24, 1942 - June 10, 2018
Silver Spring, Maryland

Gail succumbed after a seven-month battle with Cholangiocarcinoma. She was born in Jacksonville, Florida to Richard Steeves and Marjorie (Hull) Steeves and is survived by her husband Gerry, their two children, David M. Bragg (and his partner John Hartford), of Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada, and Karen E. Craig (husband Doug, and children Dylan, Mitchell, and Addie) of Thousand Oaks, California, and two brothers, Kenneth and Malcolm Steeves. Gail attended Terry Parker High School in Jacksonville, Florida, and received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Florida State University. On November 12, 1964 she met Gerry Bragg on a blind date in Brunswick, Georgia, where he was a Naval Aviation Cadet completing advanced training, and four weeks later, on December 12, they were married in Jacksonville, Florida (she always hated for him to tell that story because she was afraid it would make her seem frivolous). After Gerry's first tour in Vietnam, she even agreed to ride with him on a much too small motorcycle from San Diego to the Grand Canyon...and she drove at least a third of the way; although she never got on a motorcycle again. During the next 53 years Gail lived all over the world, as she followed Gerry to his various professional opportunities. One relocation involved raising their young children in Taiwan while he finished his graduate research. The family spent the last 30 years living in West Virginia and Maryland. Gail held various staff and supervisory nursing positions in pediatrics, medical-surgery and orthopedics in hospitals from Key West to Alameda California, and charge nurse in the original Baltimore City Hospital's Burn Center which later became the Johns Hopkins Bayview Burn Center, culminating in her position as Vice-President of Education and Quality Assurance with a nationwide home health care company.

She set a high standard for a loving wife, mother, and eventually a grandmother. Gail loved being by the water, whether walking at the ocean, particularly on the California beaches, or kayaking on the lakes and rivers of the East Coast and on the pristine lakes in Canada near her son's home. She was remarkable for her sense of humor and her open and caring friendships with everyone she met and everyone with whom she worked or mentored. During the last eight years of her life she discovered a new love for ceramic art and eventually served four terms as President of the Leisure World Ceramics Club, where she made many great friends, several of whom helped her cope with her debilitating disease. Gail took great pride in creating unique pieces that are prized by her family, friends, and fellow club members. Her last gift to us all was of herself to the Johns Hopkins Legacy Gift Rapid Autopsy program - a research program that arranges and performs autopsies on an urgent basis to collect tumor and other tissues for researchers in many different areas. Specimens collected at autopsy have been used to grow living cell lines which can be used to evaluate for genetic mutations and test new chemotherapies. Samples can also undergo genetic sequencing and RNA expression analysis, as well as immunohistochemical and proteomic studies. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society.


Barry Johnson +

Barry Johnson Barry Johnson, a long time Maryland resident, was diagnosed with a pancreatic cancer in November of 2014 - stage 2B. One evening, he had severe abdominal pain and itching - so severe that as an EMT he asked to be taken to the emergency room. A tumor was found on CT. He and his family immediately came to The Johns Hopkins Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center to receive evidence based care from the multidisciplinary care team. Barry started a three to four phase treatment plan of chemotherapy (5FU), stereotactic radiation, traditional Whipple and then 3 more months of chemotherapy. During this time he continued to work full time as an accessibility web programmer/ analyst. By working remotely and through webcasts, Barry was able to continue to help bridge technology capabilities for everyone with different abilities. Barry also continued to volunteer as an EMT / Firefighter in Prince George's County and provide technical expertise to the Maryland State Firemen's Association web and Facebook presence.

While there are many possible contributing factors to Barry's Pancreatic Cancer, he believed that the fire training he participated in during 1980's and the practices of not washing gear and not keeping self-contained breathing apparatus on after flames were out was a significant cause of his "fire fighter cancer". Barry is the third firefighter from Baltimore County Providence VFD to be diagnosed with this aggressive disease. He worked closely with the Maryland Firefighter Cancer Support Network to educate the current generation of providers about the risks of cancer and the important steps to take to decrease risks for many types of cancer.

Barry was in remission for only three months, PC came back in both his liver and lungs - stage 4. The team at the Johns Hopkins started a new chemotherapy regime and in August suggested an immune therapy trial at NIH. Barry tried two more types of chemotherapy while battling the side effects of treatment and complications from surgery. In April of 2017, 30 months after diagnosis Barry died in hospice care surrounded by family. He had three final wishes: 1) to donate his tumors to Hopkins research through the Legacy Rapid Autopsy Program to continue the fight to Wage Hope against Pancreatic Cancer; 2) to have a fire department memorial service (and friends from across the state came in the "sea of blue"); and 3) bagpipes. We will carry on his desire to Wage Hope with both Baltimore PanCan Network and Firefighter Cancer Support networks.

Rest easy Barry, we have it from here and will continue to answer the calls.


Tyler Farmer +

Dave Foster In early 2015, Tyler Farmer began experiencing pain in his left shoulder. A college student, he got an MRI during spring break, thinking he had torn something in his shoulder. Instead, he learned he had a large tumor in his shoulder, which was later diagnosed as osteosarcoma.

Tyler immediately began chemotherapy but soon learned that the tumor was not responding to treatment. In June 2015 Tyler made the brave decision to amputate his left arm, in hopes of stopping the cancer. After months more of chemo, Tyler was declared cancer free.

Despite the loss of his left arm and lingering effects of chemotherapy, Tyler began rebuilding his life. He returned to college at Towson University in January 2016 and moved into his own apartment in August 2016. Despite the challenges he faced, Tyler was determined to lead a positive and independent life.

In December 2016, Tyler received the dreaded news that the cancer had returned, this time in his chest. Tyler had surgery and began an Phase II clinical trial. But in March 2017, additional cancer was found, this time next to blood vessels in his heart that prevented surgical removal. Tyler bravely decided he would no longer pursue treatment and entered hospice care. Tyler died at his home, with his parents Greg and Tammy, on October 8, 2017.

Tyler felt strongly that he had benefited from others who had suffered the cruelty of cancer, but had contributed to cancer research. He felt he had a responsibility to contribute as much as possible to science, so hopefully others diagnosed with this terrible disease could benefit. Through the Legacy Gift program, Tyler was able to donate cancer tissue to not only the Legacy Gift tissue bank, but also the Children's Oncology Group, the National Institutes of Health, the Children's Cancer Therapy Institute, and the Texas Tech Cancer Center.

Tyler is remembered by his family and friends as a brave soul who cared deeply for others. He hopes his contributions to cancer research will inspire others to consider how they can contribute as well. Despite his many adversities, Tyler maintained a positive attitude.

You will be missed but never forgotten, Tyler.


Dave Foster +

Dave Foster Dave Foster, a native of California, was diagnosed with a brain tumor while working at a job he loved in Dubai in June of 2016. He just thought his eyes were tired from overwork and too much screen time. He and his girlfriend, Sheila, decided to return to the U.S. for treatment at Johns Hopkins because of the institution's reputation and because the family could easily gather nearby for support. Surgery in July showed an aggressive tumor, and the pathology report confirmed a Stage 4 glioblastoma. Dave was young and healthy, and determined to be in the 5% that makes it to the other side of such a diagnosis. He entered a clinical trial at Hopkins that combined nivolumab with radiation and temozolomide. When the tumor progressed, he endured another round of whole brain radiation, but the tumor continued its march, finally claiming Dave's life. He died peacefully at Gilchrist Hospice in Towson, Maryland on June 5, 2017. He was 37.

Dave was a designer by training. He chose to apply his skills to causes and organizations that supported his values by working on projects that helped the environment, contributed to better civil discourse, and helped the poorest people who live and work at the "bottom of the pyramid." He loved being a global citizen, living abroad and experiencing adventure travel, diversity in nature, geography, cultures, and people. He was an avid scuba diver and was deeply concerned about the state of the world's oceans and the environment. Dave is remembered for his kindness, optimism, curiosity, sense of humor, ability to include people, his passion for the earth, and his smile that lit up a room. He was quite simply a lovely man, and he left many, many friends.

Dave's wish was to donate his organs to people who might be able to use them to continue their own lives in better health. Because of the cancer, only his brain was eligible for donation, but he was happy to share it in the hopes that the researchers could learn something from his misfortune that might help others in the future. He hoped his donation would inspire others to do the same.

Rest in Peace, Lovely Man. Your kindness inspires all of us to continue your legacy to "See and Be the Good in the World."


Spencer Grace +

Spencer Grace Spencer Grace was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, medulloblastoma, when she was 17 months old. Despite the devastating news, Spencer's original prognosis was good and treatments were proving to be successful. In fact, after 9 months of chemotherapy, there was no evidence of disease and she was in remission. 6 short months later, however, an MRI showed that there was new tumor growth on her brain and spine, and her doctors recommended that she immediately start a more aggressive treatment plan. Although her new tumors initially reacted well to the stronger chemotherapy, we received the news on Spencer's 3rd birthday that chemotherapy was no longer effective and her tumors were rapidly spreading. It was confirmed that she could not be cured. Facing the reality that your child will not survive is all parents' worst fear. We were overcome with grief, but also vowed to do anything possible to help other children and families fighting this terrible disease. We learned from Spencer's doctors that Johns Hopkins Hospital has a Legacy Gift Rapid Autopsy Program through which tumors from terminally ill patients can be donated posthumously for research purposes. Live tumor cells are invaluable to researchers and are the best way to understand and better treat these diseases. Thus, we made the difficult decision to donate Spencer's tumors to science following her passing with the hope that her case will lead to better treatments and, one day, a cure.

Through the donation of Spencer's tumors and funds raised by our charity, The Spencer Grace Foundation, we have helped support ongoing medulloblastoma research conducted by doctors at Johns Hopkins. Their research continues to show great promise and we are hopeful that one day it will help save the next generation of children like Spencer. We find comfort and strength in knowing that Spencer's legacy will live on through her tumor donation, and that she is giving other children a better chance to live as they truly deserve. As Spencer's parents, it is our sincere hope that Spencer's story will inspire others to consider donating.