CLEARWATER — Each year, more than 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with brain tumors. In 2004, Bob Gibbs was one of them.
He is still alive today thanks to an experimental vaccine made from his own cancer cells. A treatment he calls cutting edge.
Treatments like the one Gibbs, 41, travels to California to receive are the reason he and his wife, Barb, 42, started Miles for Hope, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money for out-of-the-ordinary and experimental treatments and to pay patients' travel expenses to clinical trials.
"Let's face it, chemotherapy and radiation aren't working," Gibbs said.
Miles for Hope, which was founded in 2008, raised nearly $60,000 last year through a series of fundraisers. Events like Rock for Research, a concert featuring local bands that will be held Saturday at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg.
"It's nine bands, one stage and we hope to sell the place out," Gibbs said.
Tickets to the event are $12 in advance and $15 at the door, so a sellout could raise more than $20,000 for the group.
He said he isn't sure how much the group has raised this year, but it is teaming with other organizations to fund a clinical research trial. That effort has brought in $69,000 so far and the goal is $131,000, he said.
He estimates Miles for Hope has helped at least 20 to 30 families in Tampa Bay. It also has helped fund clinical trials like the current effort.
Gibbs and his wife hope fundraisers like Saturday's concert also help raise awareness for Miles for Hope and the need for an increased focus on brain tumor treatment.
"Brain cancer awareness is where breast cancer was 10 years ago and prostate cancer awareness was five years ago," he said. "But the same number of people are diagnosed with brain tumors as breast cancer each year."
Miles for Hope is providing inspiration and information for patients and caregivers running into dead ends with medical professionals, said Kelly Cornelius, a caregiver from Lithia.
"Miles for Hope was one of the resources I found recently while researching what was now available over and above the dismal 'standard of care treatment', " she said. "Miles For Hope offered more information than local physicians and even local surgeons."
In addition to events in the Tampa Bay area, the group also organizes events in several other cities around the country.
Miles for Hope is a full-time volunteer effort for Gibbs, who worked for a local construction company before being disabled as a result of the lemon-sized tumor he had removed from his brain in 2005.
Unfortunately, the cancer returned as a pea-sized tumor in May, but Gibbs is optimistic the vaccine he receives every three months will once again stave off his disease.
"It's too early to tell yet," he said, "but I'm hopeful."