Brain tumors, which are abnormal growths of cells within the brain, can be cancerous (malignant) and spread if not properly addressed. More than 200,000 people in the U.S. receive the diagnosis of a primary or metastatic brain tumor every year. Unfortunately, they are becoming even more prevalent and a particular type of tumor, the glioma, is difficult to treat because of its propensity to recur even following surgical removal of the tumor mass. The difficulty of locating and inhibiting the growth of cancer cells that have migrated away from the tumor makes gliomas recalcitrant in the face of existing radiation and chemotherapeutic approaches.
Research at the McKnight Brain Institute
Work performed by MBI investigators has pioneered the use of radiosurgery, 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 type 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 possible to begin developing 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. Using these technologies can help achieve the goal of treating brain cancer using novel surgical, genetic, immunologic and molecular medicine approaches. It is anticipated that the MBI 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 contribute to tumor development.
In the very near future, clinical trials are being planned for glioma using knowledge from research done in the MBI on molecular pathways involved in the growth and differentiation of brain tumor-initiating cells.
Led by Duane Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D., the UF Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program is focused on the development of effective immunologic/biologic treatment of brain cancer. These therapies can work in a plethora of ways, including stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, stopping cancer from spreading to other parts of the body and helping the immune system to destroy cancer cells with a higher efficacy. With current immunotherapy options only achieving complete clinical responses in around 30 percent of patients, this program aims to improve tumor responsiveness to these types of therapies.
Co-directed by William Friedman, M.D. and Duane Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D., the Preston A. Wells Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy consists of highly-trained physicians focused on a patient-centered approach to care. With experts in the fields of neuro-oncology, neurosurgery, radiation oncology, neuroradiology, neurology and neuropathology, this team is able to provide highly individualized diagnostics and treatment plans with the ultimate goal of creating the optimal patient experience.
Directed by Joanna Long, Ph.D., AMRIS is a state-of-the-art core that provides high-resolution NMR, solid-state NMR and microimaging spectrometer systems. This facility enhances the impact and scope of neuroscience imaging research at UF and beyond, as it is available to not only UF researchers, but also to all external academic and industrial scientists.