Brain tumors, which are abnormal growths of cells within the brain, can be cancerous (malignant) and spread if not properly treated. More than 200,000 people in the U.S. receive the diagnosis of primary or metastatic brain tumor every year and, unfortunately, this number has been increasing. Gliomas, which represent a particular type of brain tumor, are particularly difficult to treat because of their propensity to recur following surgical removal of the tumor mass. Locating the glioma cells that have invaded normal brain tissue, and inhibiting their growth, remains a considerable challenge and makes those tumors recalcitrant in the face of existing radiation and chemotherapeutic approaches.
Research at the McKnight Brain Institute
Work performed by McKnight Brain Institute’s investigators has pioneered the use of radiosurgery and immunotherapy to attack aggressive brain tumors. Understanding how these tumors arise and survive in their microenvironment has made it possible for those investigators to develop new therapeutic approaches that target brain cancer cells more efficiently. Teams of dedicated clinicians and researchers are collaborating in characterizing brain tumor cells and their relationship to the patients’ brain and immune system using a variety of powerful new technologies. These studies have led to personalized therapeutic approaches that recognize individual differences in the composition of patients’ tumor and immune cells as well as these cells’ evolution following treatment.
Knowledge from research performed at the McKnight Brain Institute has provided the basis for ongoing clinical trials for adult and pediatric brain cancers, including glioma, medulloblastoma, and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. These clinical studies use novel immunotherapeutic, radiosurgical, pharmacological, and imaging techniques developed in our preclinical research laboratories. Our investigators continue to advance the translation of basic research findings into clinical treatments, with the ultimate goal of radically improving patient survival and quality of life.
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.