Olfactory neuroblastoma survivor finds hope at MD Anderson

Robby Witt knows about hope. In the last six years, he has gone through more highs and lows than most people experience in a lifetime. The 38-year-old former high school quarterback has faced olfactory neuroblastoma three times. This extremely rare cancer occurs on the roof of the nasal cavity and sometimes the cribriform plate, a bone between the eyes located deep in the skull that separates the nasal passage from the brain. It’s a type of skull base tumor. Robby’s cancer is so rare that his ear, nose and throat doctor in San Diego immediately referred him to MD Anderson, where his physician advised him he would receive care by specialists who see more of these rare skull base tumors. Over the last decade, MD Anderson has treated almost 150 patients with olfactory neuroblastoma. That’s a significant number given that only 1,000 cases have been diagnosed since 1924, when it was first identified. For Robby, who had only recently married and received his Doctorate of Pharmacy, the diagnosis came as a shock. “I had never heard of MD Anderson, but we were in Houston within days,” says Robby. “I like to meet things head on, so I read as much as I could about this cancer. I knew that getting to a cancer center where they were more familiar with olfactory neuroblastoma was my best choice.” A clear path for olfactory neuroblastoma treatment Olfactory neuroblastoma and other rare cancers can often baffle physicians not familiar with them and lead patients through a journey that may include years of referrals, treatment and follow-up care. That hasn’t been the case for...