Why Brain Tumors are So Hard to Destroy -Fox News


Published October 19, 2012




The most common and aggressive brain tumor grows by turning normal brain cells into stem cells, which can continuously replicate and regrow a tumor with only a handful of cells left behind, new research finds.

The findings help explain why the tumors, called glioblastomas, are so difficult to treat, said study researcher Inder Verma, a molecular biologist at The Salk Institute in California. Even the surgical removal of a tumor may not be able to extract every single cancerous cell, Verma told LiveScience.

Glioblastomas “reoccur because every cell that is left behind has the ability to start all over again,” Verma said.

Aggressive tumors

Glioblastoma multiforme tumors make up the majority of brain tumor cases and have a very poor prognosis. According to a 2010 study in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, the average survival rate after a glioblastoma diagnosis is 14 months (though improving surgical techniques had boosted that number from 10 months in only five years prior to the study).

Verma and his colleagues were interested in finding a more accurate way of studying tumor growth. Most mice studies of cancer introduce human tumor cells into mice with no immune systems or genetically engineer mice so that every cell is cancer-prone. But that’s not how tumors arise in real life, Verma said. He and his co-researchers wanted to find a way to mimic cancer’s growth from a single cell to out-of-control.

Using viruses, they introduced cancer-causing genes into mice, developing a technique in which as few as 20 cancerous cells can trigger tumor growth. They then found that a mere 10 cells from one of these mouse tumors, transplanted into a healthy mouse, could lead to a whole new tumor in that mouse. [Colorful But Deadly: Images of Brain Cancer]

“That suggested that every cell in these tumors or glioblastomas has the ability to make new glioblastomas,” Verma said.

Stem cell switch

Researchers once believed that glioblastomas arose only from glial cells, the “support” cells in the brain that surround neurons. When it was discovered that the brain contains stem cells, which are capable of transforming into any sort of neural tissue, researchers figured cancer could arise from those cells, too, said study researcher Dinorah Friedmann-Morvinski, also a Salk Institute researcher.

But now, Friedmann-Morvinski, Verma and their colleagues have found they can coax even neurons into cancer cells by introducing cancer-causing genes. The neurons, which should not be able to divide and reproduce anymore, turn back into stem cells, which can continuously divide.

Researchers have successfully reprogrammed cells into stem cells in the lab, a feat that earned scientists John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine. It was surprising, still, to find the cancer cells performing this trick, Friedmann-Morvinski told LiveScience, but there were “some hints it might be happening.”

The next step, the researchers said, is to learn more about how the cells revert into stem cells and then find a way to block the out-of-control growth of these cancerous cells.

“You have to kill them in order to kill the tumor in the long run,” Verma said.

The researchers report their results online Oct. 18 in the journal Science.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/10/19/why-brain-tumors-are-so-hard-to-destroy/#ixzz2A9Ha3UeD

One Boy’s Mission to Ensure Sick Children Do Not Miss Out On Halloween

Boy, 6, with brain cancer starts Halloween costume drive for sick children

Courtesy Marlene Castro

At left, brain cancer patient Nico Castro as Batman. At right, Nico from about a month before he was diagnosed. Nico’s mother said he likes wearing Halloween masks because they make him look like a regular kid since the chemo and radiation have left him without hair.

By Jasmin Aline Persch, TODAY contributor

At his costume drive last Thursday for children who have to spend Halloweenin the hospital, Nico Castro – a 6-year-old who’s battling brain cancer – ran around as a “Star Wars” Stormtrooper.

“Which one’s the sick child?” a donator asked his mom Marlene Castro, she recounted to TODAY.com “You can’t see he has no hair with the helmet,” said Castro. “He’s running around. It’s nice to keep things normal as possible for him. We’re limited.”

Nico was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, which is cancer of the cerebellum (that’s Latin for the “little brain,” which is important for balance and movement), last November and has spent holidays in the hospital near his home in San Bruno, California. He kept asking whether he’d be able to celebrate Halloween, his favorite holiday, and when his treatment schedule cleared for Oct. 31, he was ecstatic at first – and then he quickly grew concerned about children too sick to leave the hospital for the costume-and-candy filled day.

“Halloween’s my favorite,” Nico told TODAY.com. “I don’t want them to miss out on the candy.”

He initially wanted to buy costumes for all the sick children at Target, but the Castro’s finances are tighter now because of his cancer treatment so his parents suggested a drive. The family ended up purchasing a few items to ensure they had something for everybody, such as masks for kids who can’t don full-body suits and fun sock booties for walking around the pediatric wards. And the drive is bringing in a slew of Halloween costumes, books and games.

Bob Marshall’s real estate office, next to Nico’s dad’s automotive business where last Thursday’s drive took place, donated a bag of costumes. He estimates about 100 people turned out, and most surprising was seeing Nico, who often has to stay inside because of his weakened immune system.

Courtesy Marlene Castro

Nico dressed up as a Storm Trooper at a Halloween drive he and his family threw last week.

“He was all dressed up and running around and trying to talk to people. With the chemo and everything he’s going through, he’s very quiet and very tired all the time,” Marshall said. “To see him active was a really good thing.”

When asked how he decided to help the children at the hospital celebrate Halloween, Nico told TODAY.com: “I just had the idea.”

His idea even surprised his parents.

“We do instill being considerate of others who don’t have as much as we do even though we don’t have that much. We donate all the time for holidays, always a boy and girl toy,” Castro, 44,  said. “It did surprise me because of his age. He’s aware and sensitive to kids who can’t go trick or treating.”

She thinks her son has a special bond with the other children at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Medical Center. He cries a lot when he’s there, missing his brother, sister and dog and one night when he was especially inconsolable, an older patient sharing the room comforted him, Castro recalls. Recently, Nico’s gotten better, walking the halls looking into the rooms at the other children, asking what’s wrong and if they’ll be alright.

“He feels like he has a connection to the kids that are there,” she says. “He hasn’t been able to go to school since last November. Play dates are difficult because his (blood counts) are low. The kids he sees the most are the kids in the hospital. He thinks of them as friends. They’re sick and they have something in common.”

The community of San Bruno, Calif., about 10 miles south of San Francisco, has also rallied around Nico. Friends pitch in to carpool the Castro’s other children to their afterschool activities, cook or drop off dinner and donate cards for gas and groceries. Nico’s 11-year-old sister, who now wants to be a nurse, also collected notes from students and teachers at school on a card for her little brother.

“They’re a really positive family,” said Marshall, a family friend who has pitched in at their automotive business when they were supporting Nico in the hospital. Some students at Junipero Serra High School, where Marshall is the wrestling coach, organized a car wash to raise money for the family, he added.

Nico’s prognosis is good and his cancer has not spread, doctors told Castro. He hit a low after his initial surgery though: He developed posterior fossa syndrome, causing him to lose his ability to speak, walk, even swallow. Nico had to spend two and a half months in the hospital and go through intensive rehabilitation. On his current chemotherapy regiment, he’s out of the hospital more than in but his next rounds aren’t like clockwork, hinging on how quickly his immune system can recover.

“His body has taken a hit from chemo and radiation, but his spirit is so spunky,” Castro said. “He’s bound and determined to not let it get to him. He makes the best of the bad situation. I learn so much from him. I learn every day. The fact the he feels crummy and thinks of others… He’s doing well.”

And Nico’s Halloween spirit is as strong as ever. Last year, he went as Batman, whose cartoons he watches. This year, he’s upgrading to the Dark Knight. Why?

“Because I like Batman,” Nico said.

His mom said he also likes that the mask conceals his bald head so he looks like a regular kid.

But as a 6-year-old fighting – and beating – brain cancer with the compassion to bring Halloween to other children like him, he’s so much more.

Nico’s Halloween drive is ongoing. Donators can bring or send new, packaged Halloween costumes to his dad’s automotive company:

C&C Automotive Refinishing
860 San Mateo Ave.
San Bruno, CA 94066

TODAY.com contributor Jasmin Aline Persch is imagining the looks on the children’s faces when Nico hands out the Halloween costumes in the hospital. What a treat!

Bret Michaels Opens New Facility at Arizona Hospital

Bret Michaels Arizona Hospital

PHOENIX — Former Poison frontman Bret Michaels is showing off a new room for patients and their families at the Phoenix hospital where he was treated for a brain hemorrhage.

The musician officially opened the Bret Michaels Hospitality and Music Room inside St. Joseph’s Barrow Neurological Institute on Tuesday.

The room is located near patients’ rooms and features relaxation areas for patients and families. It is decorated with a music theme and features Michaels’ personal music memorabilia.

Michaels says he’s thrilled to give back to a hospital he credits with saving his life.

He was treated at the hospital in April 2010 for a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a life-threatening type of stroke.

He then returned to St. Joseph’s in 2011 to undergo a heart procedure.



Our Partner TGen Widening Battle for Kids

by Ken Alltucker – Oct. 5, 2012 12:00 AM
The Republic | azcentral.com

The Translational Genomics Research Institute is expanding its efforts to assist children who are facing rare disorders that are tough to diagnose.

The TGen Center for Rare Childhood Disorders will use the institute’s gene-hunting technology to identify causes of ailments that can confound doctors.

The idea is that scientists working with doctors, can uncover the genetic triggers to rare disorders. Once the cause is identified, doctors can evaluate potential drugs or treatments.
“When you are dealing with a rare disorder, even with a child, it has a high likelihood of being genetic,” said Matthew Huentelman, who will be co-director of the new center. “There are thousands of disorders with names and probably thousands of others without names that are just a collection of symptoms. We know it is a big problem and it affects a lot of lives across the Valley.”

Huentelman said such rare diseases or disorders afflict as many as 1 in 150 children. These children at times are subjected to a dozens of medical tests, biopsies and scans. that can frustrate them and their families, particularly when the cause of the disease or disorder remains a mystery.

TGen identified rare childhood diseases as a potential area of study when the Phoenix-based research institute was established a decade ago. As technology has improved and whole-genome sequencing has grown more affordable, TGen decided to use the sequencing technology to study children with these disorders.

TGen started the effort more than a year ago and evaluated the genetic makeup of five children. In three cases, scientists were able to find the genetic causes of their disorders.

The first case studied by TGen involved 12-year-old Shelby Valint of north Phoenix. Shelby had difficulty talking, walking and eating, but doctors could not pinpoint the cause of her illness after years of testing. She needed a motorized wheelchair or a walker to get around. After her genome was sequenced, TGen scientists and her pediatric neurologist, Dr. Vinodh Narayanan, discovered a genetic anomaly that blocked her ability to synthesize dopamine, a brain chemical tied to movement, muscle control and balance. Narayanan prescribed a drug, bromocriptine, that is often used to treat Parkinson’s disease.

Within three months of taking the drug in December 2010, Shelby began to walk and talk and live an otherwise normal life. Narayanan is still closely monitoring her progress, and TGen plans more extensive genetic scans as scientists seek answers to what appears to be a type of neurotransmitter metabolism disorder, he said.

TGen’s new program also has helped diagnose two families with mitochondrial disease. One child has passed away.

TGen has since expanded its genetic testing to more than 20 children, and the research institute has collected about 100 DNA samples of children with rare disorders, said David Craig, co-director of the new TGen center. Craig said he is hopeful that TGen can find genetic triggers for about half of the cases researchers study. There will not be known drug treatments for some diseases, but families may find relief even in knowing the diagnosis, Narayanan said.

TGen President Jeffrey Trent said the new center is another example of how genetic sequencing can be used to diagnose and help treat patients. The Phoenix research institute routinely sequences genomes for cancer patients at Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale Healthcare and other hospitals. Trent said the new center will be funded by TGen, foundations, philanthropy and, potentially, payments from health insurance companies. He estimates 20 to 30 percent of sequencing cases could be reimbursable by private insurers.

“TGen was formed a decade ago to use genomic information for medical benefit,” Trent said. “I feel like that hope has been realized. Genetic medicine is ready today.”

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/health/news/20121004tgen-widening-battle-kids.html#ixzz28pwsGcUR

A Brain Tumor Battle is Only a “Detour” in One Mother’s Life

My Brain Tumor Story

My brain tumor battle began long before I knew anything was growing inside my head. What I now recognize as symptoms had started manifesting themselves months and months before I stepped foot into a doctor’s office. But when my headaches and dizzy spells became nearly unbearable, I knew it was time to get to the root of the problem.Months after being diagnosed with tension migraine headaches, and an inner ear infection, my symptoms continued to worsen. A plea from my husband sent me back to the doctor, for the third time. This time, I told my doctor that we weren’t going to stop until we found the cause.

The results from an MRI of my brain, on April 10, 2009, changed my life forever. I will never forget the words my doctored uttered over the phone, “Mrs. Brown… I just don’t know what to say,” followed by the brief explanation of the facts surrounding the mass growing on and around my brainstem. The news only got worse for a while, as the first neurosurgeon told us that brain tumors are judged according to their location, and mine was in “a very bad location”. The next several doctors and teams of specialists all said the same thing. It was too dangerous to biopsy, to operate or treat at all. I was stuck with an inoperable brain tumor on my brainstem.

The news was devastating for me and my family. I could not function well enough to take care of my children or even myself. I could no longer walk down the hall because of severe vertigo. I developed tinnitis, or ringing in the ears, and the symptoms continued to mount. We didn’t have any good options and I was afraid I wasn’t going to have much of a life left at all.

But then the miracles began and angels came into my life. A neurosurgeon at the University of Utah Medical Center is one of the BEST in the world at operating near the brainstem. As he looked at my MRI scans, he turned to us and announced, “I can do this”. After 5 more HOURS of additional MRI scans, hundreds of tests, a hospital stay and minor surgery, I was admitted to the hospital to remove the tumor, on May 13, 2009.

The surgery was long and difficult, but successful in removing most of the tumor. In time we were blessed to find out the tumor was benign. However, upon waking up from procedure, it became apparent that I had several complications and side effects from the disruption to my brainstem and nerves. Most notably, I had grade 6 (total) facial paralysis on my right side, hearing loss, and a cerebral spinal fluid leak (CSF). While the paralysis has been the longest-lasting effect, the CSF leak turned out to be a near fatal challenge.

An up close look at my paralysis.

The CS fluid leaked out of my nose and down the back of my throat. This caused me to stay lying down all the time so the fluid would not drip out of my body. After 3 weeks in the hospital, and several minor procedures which attempted to to fix the leak, I underwent a 2nd craniotomy to seal the CSF leak. The doctors surgically farmed fat from my leg and stomach to “fill” the holes in my brain and stop the leak. They also used a special surgical wax to fill in any gaps in my skull, and inserted surgical glue to help hold everything in place. Unfortunately, that too was ineffective.

As my body weakened, I became susceptible to other complications. In early June, I started going steadily downhill, and no one was able to figure out the cause of the additional problems and symptoms. I was treated for spinal meningitis, but that did not solve my issues. Because of my unknown condition, I could not move my body at all because of immense pressure and incredible pain in my head. I was unable to eat, drink or even get up to use the restroom. I was totally dependent on IVs and multiple lines hooked to my body to keep me going. I laid still for days, moving in and out of consciousness, not able to move an inch, knowing that my physical body was rapidly declining. Even after throwing up on myself multiple times, I refused to allow my nurses to change my gown or bedding; the pain of movement was so extreme, nothing else mattered but perfect stillness.

My hope and strength were nearly gone. I had fought a painful and difficult battle in the hospital for 27 days and my body felt like there was no chance of survival. Just at the right moment, a Neurosurgeon resident had an idea to test for a particular condition called pneumocephalus, or “air on the brain”.  The CT scan immediately revealed that I had an extreme condition of pneumocephalus and I was quickly losing my battle. Teams of doctors responded immediately and I was rushed to the Neuro Critical Care (NCC) unit to begin treatment. This was the closest call of my brain tumor battle, yet also the source of the greatest miracle. I can hardly believe just how close I was to dying that night, but the Lord answered many prayers and intervened just in time.

After only 15 hours in NCC, my condition stabilized enough that I could have a 3rd craniotomy to seal my CSF leak. In this procedure, an experimental surgery that had only been successfully completed 6 times before, the neurosurgeon went in through my nose. Using a “needle and thread” technique, he found the leak and sewed it shut, finally closing the CSF leak that had plaqued me for 27 days.

Following my 3rd craniotomy…
With my CSF leak sealed, I could finally focus on my recovery. By then my body was weak; I was down to only 90 pounds and I could barely stand, eat or drink. I had to learn to walk again before I was eligible to leave. It took me another 8 days in the hospital before I was stable enough for the doctors to consider releasing me.
My children gave me plenty of reasons to keep fighting!
Tolan was always beside me (in person or in spirit) during the difficult fight for my life.
My father stayed by my bedside for 28 of my 34 days in the hospital. Though I do not wish
to re-live my time in the hospital, I will always cherish the quiet moments we shared together.
 Worn and ragged… but alive! Preparing to leave the hospital, after 34 long days!
When the long-awaited day finally came, I was flooded with emotion. I left the hospital a different person than the one who had entered 5 weeks before. My body was only a shell of what it had been, but I knew that I had won the fight.
 Arriving home — to a great “Welcome Home” party in the neighborhood!
 My first day home — snuggling with my sweetheart.
The adjustment to being home was not as easy as I had hoped. Living on IVs and being unable to move for so long took an enormous toll on my body. My system re-set in an infant phase, and I had to introduce foods one at a time for months. I had no muscle left in my body and I was incredibly weak. I hated to admit it, but I was still very sick, unable to eat, and unable to care for my family for quite some time. I spent the first months mostly lying in bed, but at least I was at home with my family!Shortly after my release, I had a 4th surgery, this time to help with my paralysis. Being unable to close my eye, my vision was declining and my cornea was stressed and damaged. In late June, a gold weight was surgically implanted in my eyelid to “weigh it down” and help it close.

My paralysis continued to cause problems for me, especially my eye. The weight helped, but I was still unable to blink and keep my eye protected, so I was given many “pirate patches” to protect my cornea and preserve my vision. Finally, after several months of healing at home, life started getting back to “normal” as much as possible, eye patch, paralysis and all.
My amazing mother lived with my family and took care of my children while I was sick and in the hospital. She left her home and her family, 3000 miles away, and lived with us for almost 4 months! She was a life saver! When she left our home, I honestly didn’t know if I would be able to take care of my family again without her.

In order for the brain to recover and heal, the body needs lots of sleep. My new “normal” included multiple naps and 10-12 hours of sleep at night. In time, the whole family got on a new “schedule”, and with LOTS of help from neighbors, friends, family and angels, we were able to make it, one day at a time! I started doing simple exercises to strengthen my body, and after a year, I was able to go to a facial therapist to help me learn to use my facial muscles again.

 My sweet Lindi helped me “bedazzle” my eye patches so I could hit the town in style.:)
Celebrating my 34th birthday with my family.
My paralysis continues to improve as my nerves are slowly regenerating. I now have use of 4 muscles in my face (out of 19), and I am eating, drinking, swallowing and speaking much better. Fluids still occastionally drip from my mouth and some words still get slurred, but I am functioning much better.In the summer of 2010, I travelled to California for a sepcial procedure in which a metal spring was surgically implanted into my eyelid. I still cannot blink, but I now have the ability to close my eye again. The progress is slow and some days are still painful and difficult, but every day I am told that I am looking more and more like my old self. But more importantly than how I look, is how blessed I feel to still here to be a wife, mother, daughter, sister, neighbor and friend!

Now that I have had my miracles, I want to help others navigate the “orange cones” and “detours” of life! To read my full “brain tumor” story as it unfolded, go tohttp://www.amiracleforjodibrown.blogspot.com/ and begin in the archives, in May 2009.