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NCI-CONNECT Rare Brain & Spine Tumor Network


The NCI-CONNECT team is dedicated to helping those with rare central nervous system (CNS) tumors within the NCI Center for Cancer Research Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB).


Terri Armstrong, Ph.D.


Deputy Chief, NOB 

Dr. Armstrong co-leads all aspects of NCI-CONNECT and, specifically, leads its patient risk and outcomes project. The project is an online survey that looks at the impact a rare CNS tumor diagnosis and treatment has on patients and their families and explores potential clinical and genomic risk factors.

Mark Gilbert, M.D.


Chief, NOB

Dr. Gilbert co-leads all aspects of NCI-CONNECT and, specifically, serves as the protocol principal investigator for its clinical trials. Dr. Gilbert directs the Brain Tumor Trials Collaborative (BTTC), a network of renowned medical centers throughout the United States that provide clinical trials to patients with rare CNS tumors.

Clinical Staff

Alvina Acquaye

Psychosocial Behavioral Specialist 

Alvina manages the patient outcomes studies and provides wellness practices to patients. These include strategies to help patients cope with the mental, physical and emotional challenges faced during diagnosis.

Nicole Lollo

Nicole Lollo

Nurse Practitioner

Nicole manages the care for patients with rare brain and spinal tumors who are enrolled in clinic trials. She provides comprehensive clinical evaluations and symptom management to incorporate a holistic approach to their care.

Kristen Oshin

Patient Care Coordinator

Kristen coordinates the intake process for patients, including scheduling appointments, coordinating travel and gathering all necessary information from the patient to visit the NIH, and then provides visit information.

Marta Penas-Prado, M.D.

Associate Research Physician

Dr. Penas-Prado provides clinical care to patients with rare CNS tumors and serves as principal investigator on therapeutic clinical trials. She evaluates patients’ physical well-being and provides diagnosis, symptom and treatment information. Dr. Penas-Prado provides patients with a comprehensive plan that, together with their physician at home, will ensure they get the best treatment possible. 

Dr. Margarita Raygada

Margarita Raygada, Ph.D.

Oncology Genetic Counselor and Geneticist 

Dr. Raygada provides genetic counseling and testing to patients, evaluates family and medical history to help determine if patients and their families are at risk for developing specific cancers or hereditary cancer syndromes, and discusses management plans for cancer screening, prevention, and risk-reduction.


Kathleen Wall

Clinical Research Nurse

Kathleen manages patient participation on clinical trials, including assessing if patients are eligible and registering patients for clinical trials.

Program Staff

Katie Blackburn

Business Manager

Katie manages the BTTC clinical trial operations, budgets, and agreements. She also plans meetings, data management, clinical monitoring and payment processing for BTTC centers.

Brittany Cordeiro

Brittany Cordeiro

Program Manager

Brittany manages program operations, plans workshops and meetings, oversees and coordinates projects and aids leadership to achieve project success. She also facilitates partnerships with non-profit organizations and provides referral information and education materials to providers, advocates, patients and their families.

NCI-CONNECT welcomes your questions.

Contact us: or call 240-760-6530

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