Brain Cancer

Illustration of neurons in the brainBrain tumors, unfortunately, seem to be becoming more prevalent, and a particular type of tumor, the glioma, is difficult to treat because of the propensity to recur even following surgical removal of the tumor mass. It is the difficulty of locating and inhibiting the growth of cancer cells that have migrated away from the tumor mass that makes gliomas so recalcitrant using existing radiation and chemotherapeutic approaches.

Work performed by McKnight Brain Institute investigators has pioneered the use of radiosurgery and stem cell biology and regenerative medicine technologies to begin to attack these aggressive tumors. A study published from our investigators was the first to describe the existence of a cancer stem cell that appears to be the aggressive cell behind the formation of glioblastoma and other gliomas that until now were not believed to be a stem cell disease. Now that we have a better idea of how these tumors may arise, and of the cells behind them, it is now possible to begin to develop new therapeutic approaches that will target the brain cancer stem cells that have migrated away from the original tumor mass and that generate additional tumors that lead to morbidity and mortality from this disease.

Teams of dedicated clinicians and investigators are collaborating on characterizing brain tumor cells using a variety of powerful new technologies that exploit recent advances in genetics, proteomics and cancer-initiating cell biology with the goal of treating brain cancer using novel surgical, genetic, immunologic and molecular medicine approaches. It is anticipated that the McKnight Brain Institute will soon lead a new initiative in treating brain cancer from a perspective of stem cell biology and immunology with the goal of completely arresting the growth of any brain cell that may have a propensity toward uncontrolled growth.

For the very near future, clinical trials are being planned for glioma using knowledge from research done in the Institute on molecular pathways involved in the growth and differentiation of brain tumor-initiating cells.

Photo by Rebecca-Lee, Flickr.