Learn About Brain Cancer

Brain Cancer

A disease of the brain in which cancer cells (malignant) arise in the brain tissue. Cancer cells grow to form a mass of cancer tissue (tumor) that interferes with brain functions such as muscle control, sensation, memory, and other normal body functions.

Brain Tumor

An abnormal growth of tissue in the brain.  Unlike other tumors, brain tumors spread by local extension and rarely metastasize (spread) outside the brain.

Clinical Trials

Research studies done to determine whether new drugs, treatments, or vaccines are safe and effective.  They are conducted in three phases:

  • Phase I
    In this phase, small groups of people are treated with a certain dose of a new agent that has been extensively studied in the laboratory. During the trial, the dose is increased group by group to find the highest dose that does not cause harmful side effects. Usually there is no control treatment for comparison. This process determines a safe, appropriate dose for use in Phase II.
  • Phase II
    This phase provides continued safety testing of a new agent, along with an evaluation of how well it works against a specific type of cancer. The new agent is given to groups of people and is usually compared with a standard treatment.
  • Phase III
    This phase answers research questions across the disease continuum and includes large numbers of participants so that the differences in effectiveness of the new agent can be evaluated. If the results of this phase merit further use of the new agent, the pharmaceutical company will usually submit a New Drug Application to the FDA.

Diagnostics

The determination of the nature of a disease or ailment.  A clinical diagnosis is based on the medical history and physical examination of the patient.

Glial Cells

Cells that provide structure to the central nervous system and insulate and protect neurons (cells that transmit electrical impulses that allow seeing/hearing/smelling/tasting).

Glioma

The term used to refer to the most prevalent primary brain tumors.  Gliomas arise from glial tissue, which supports and nourishes cells that send messages from the brain to other parts of the body.

Glioblastoma

Also known as glioblastoma multiforme, this is the most common and aggressive malignant primary brain tumor in humans, involving glial cells and accounting for 52 percent of all functional tissue brain tumor cases and 20 percent of all intracranial tumors.

GBM

GBM is an abbreviation for glioblastoma multiforme.

Translational Genomics

Innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project, applying them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases

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Dr. Reid Goes Deeper Into the Brain

The Brain’s Inner Language

By JAMES GORMAN

SEATTLE — When Clay Reid decided to leave his job as a professor at Harvard Medical School to become a senior investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle in 2012, some of his colleagues congratulated him warmly and understood right away why he was making the move.

Others shook their heads. He was, after all, leaving one of the world’s great universities to go to the academic equivalent of an Internet start-up, albeit an extremely well- financed, very ambitious one, created in 2003 by Paul Allen, a founder of Microsoft.

Still, “it wasn’t a remotely hard decision,” Dr. Reid said. He wanted to mount an all-out investigation of a part of the mouse brain. And although he was happy at Harvard, the Allen Institute offered not only great colleagues and deep pockets, but also an approach to science different from the classic university environment. The institute was already mapping the mouse brain in fantastic detail, and specialized in the large-scale accumulation of information in atlases and databases available to all of science.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/25/science/the-brains-inner-language.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20140225&_r=0&referrer

Such a Beautiful Story

200 Friends Throw Early Prom to Surprise Teen Diagnosed with Brain Cancer

By KELLI BENDER

200 Friends Surprise Teen Diagnosed with Brain Cancer with Early Prom

Cancer has taken a toll on Amber Martin, but the teen’s friends made sure it didn’t take away her prom.

Martin had been looking forward to the cherished high school event since she met her boyfriend Austin Hunt in the summer of 2013. The 16-year-old even moved from her home in Lancaster, Penn., to attend high school with Hunt in Kansasa, Okla., according to Lancaster Online.

Shortly after the move and six years after Martin’s first bout with cancer, the teen’s astrocytoma, a type of brain cancer, came out of remission. The discovery rattled Martin’s new life, especially after losing her father to cancer three years earlier. She returned home for treatment and gave up on the prom she’d been anticipating for months.

“Amber wanted to attend the prom with her new boyfriend, Austin, but unfortunately, her cancer is terminal, so that’s not possible,” said her mother, Angela Hurst, to Lancaster Online. “So we made her wish known to some friends. We were hoping to do this very small and intimate, but with everyone getting involved and the donations we’ve gotten, it has turned into the night of her dreams.”

The initially small group of prom planners grew into a 200 person party committee dedicated to giving this cancer-stricken high schooler her simple wish.

Read more: http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20782901,00.html

Ivy Foundation Awards $3 Million Grant

Ivy Foundation awards $3 million grant, supporting brain cancer research in Arizona

December 18th, 2013
Dec. 18, 2013—The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation today announced a $3 million grant to the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), Nemucore Medical Innovations Inc., and Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center to help fund significant brain tumor research in Arizona. The collaboration of TGen, Nemucore and Barrow will pursue ways to optimize targeted therapies delivered by nanotechnology systems to treat glioblastoma, the most common and most aggressive form of malignant brain tumors.

This project is a primary example of translational research, moving laboratory findings as soon as practicable to patient care. Laboratory success should result in eventual follow-on efforts in the biomanufacturing of personalized medicine and implementation of new therapies in clinical trials.

“We are excited about this innovative approach to research, especially the collaboration between two major Arizona institutions: TGen and Barrow,” said Catherine Ivy, Founder and President of the Ivy Foundation. “Knowing there is a tangible way to develop therapies specific to the needs of patients will enhance the care and treatment of every brain tumor patient—and that is priceless.”

One of the goals of this Ivy Foundation grant is to enable TGen, Nemucore and Barrow to collaboratively align their findings toward the goal of creating new medications that can bridge the body’s blood-brain barrier, which in the past has hampered the successful implementation of intravenous brain-cancer drugs.

Each of the collaborators is a leader in their respective fields:

  • TGen’s genomic sequencing—in which all 3 billion base-pair letters of human DNA are spelled out, in order—can be used to create molecular profiles of patients and match specific therapies to diseases, providing the promise of better clinical results while minimizing side effects.
  • Nemucore specializes in the development of life-saving cancer nanomedicines, in which drugs are packaged in ways that evade cancer defenses, delivering medications that can knockout tumors.
  • Barrow, which is internationally known for its treatment of neurological disorders and treats one of the highest volumes of brain tumors in the United States, will conduct preclinical work to design nanomedicines for better access to the tumor, and will also provide the setting for clinical trials, in which patients are the first to benefit from new therapies.

“Working with the research team from the outset of the study will be helpful. We can advise them on methods or components as they develop novel formulations suitable for crossing the blood-brain barrier,” said Dr. Tim Coleman, CEO of Nemucore. “Without this type of integrated approach it would take much longer to translate these individualized investigational therapies to the clinic.”

Based on the research findings, the team would work with a strategic manufacturing partner, Blue Ocean Biomanufacturing, to develop methods to manufacture personalized medicine for the treatment of glioblastoma.

Coleman also is CEO of Blue Ocean, which is developing a cutting edge, fully flexible manufacturing facility in Peoria, Arizona. With a focus on small-batch pharmaceuticals and personalized medicine, Blue Ocean will advance breakthrough technologies for producing biopharmaceuticals with reasonable economics. This revolutionary technology will make it possible to use the genetics of a single patient’s tumor to customize and produce the medicine specific to them.

“Barrow’s collaboration with TGen and Nemucore is unique in that we will develop novel drug delivery technology that fully spans basic academic science through bench top translation and manufacturing,” says Dr. Rachael Sirianni, assistant professor at the Barrow Brain Tumor Research Center. “Our first and foremost goal is to improve the prospects for patients diagnosed with glioblastoma, and to translate our academic science into safe and effective therapies. This innovative partnership between our respective institutions and the funding provided by the Ivy Foundation will make it possible to bring forward academic research to benefit patients at Barrow and elsewhere.”

“This grant is a tremendous step in changing the way medicine is developed in Arizona,” said Dr. Michael Berens, TGen Deputy Director for Research Resources and Director of TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division. “This project should enable us to develop treatments that will bridge the blood-brain barrier. I wholeheartedly thank the Ivy Foundation for their continuing support of the work we are doing to find new and effective treatments for the patients afflicted with this most aggressive form of cancer.”

Provided by The Translational Genomics Research Institute

A Scientific Breakthrough for Brain Tumors in Children

Stanford: Scientists Illuminate Brain Tumors in Mice

With the use of a “molecular flashlight” scientists hope to target tumors medulloblastomas in children one of the most devastating of the malignant childhood brain tumors.

Jennifer Cochran and Matthew Scott have created a bioengineered peptide that has been shown in mice to provide better imaging of a type of brain tumor known as medulloblastoma. Credit John Todd.
Jennifer Cochran and Matthew Scott have created a bioengineered peptide that has been shown in mice to provide better imaging of a type of brain tumor known as medulloblastoma. Credit John Todd.

In a breakthrough that could have wide-ranging applications in molecular medicine, Stanford University researchers have created a bioengineered peptide that enables imaging of medulloblastomas, among the most devastating of malignant childhood brain tumors, in lab mice.

The team used their invention as a “molecular flashlight” to distinguish tumors from surrounding healthy tissue. After injecting their bioengineered knottin into the bloodstreams of mice with medulloblastomas, the researchers found that the peptide stuck tightly to the tumors and could be detected using a high-sensitivity digital camera.

The findings are described in a study published online Aug. 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Researchers have been interested in this class of peptides for some time,” said Jennifer Cochran, PhD, an associate professor of bioengineering and a senior author of the study. “They’re extremely stable. For example, you can boil some of these peptides or expose them to harsh chemicals, and they’ll remain intact.” That makes them potentially valuable in molecular medicine. Knottins could be used to deliver drugs to specific sites in the body or, as Cochran and her colleagues have demonstrated, as a means of illuminating tumors.
For treatment purposes, it’s critical to obtain accurate images of medulloblastomas. In conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the tumors are often treated by surgical resection, and it can be difficult to remove them while leaving healthy tissue intact because their margins are often indistinct.

“With brain tumors, you really need to get the entire tumor and leave as much unaffected tissue as possible,” Cochran said. “These tumors can come back very aggressively if not completely removed, and their location makes cognitive impairment a possibility if healthy tissue is taken.”

The researchers’ molecular flashlight works by recognizing a biomarker on human tumors. The bioengineered knottin is conjugated to a near-infrared imaging dye. When injected into the bloodstreams of a strain of mice that develop tumors similar to human medullublastomas, the peptide attaches to the brain tumors’ integrin receptors — sticky molecules that aid in adhesion to other cells.

But while the knottins stuck like glue to tumors, they were rapidly expelled from healthy tissue. “So the mouse brain tumors are readily apparent,” Cochran said. “They differentiate beautifully from the surrounding brain tissue.”

The new peptide represents a major advance in tumor-imaging technology, said Melanie Hayden Gephart, MD, neurosurgery chief resident at the Stanford Brain Tumor Center and a lead author of the paper.

“The most common technique to identify brain tumors relies on preoperative, intravenous injection of a contrast agent, enabling most tumors to be visualized on a magnetic resonance imaging scan,” Gephart said. These MRI scans are used like in a computer program much like an intraoperative GPS system to locate and resect the tumors.

“But that has limitations,” she added. “When you’re using the contrast in an MRI scan to define the tumor margins, you’re basically working off a preoperative snapshot. The brain can sometimes shift during an operation, so there’s always the possibility you may not be as precise or accurate as you want to be. The great potential advantage of this new approach would be to illuminate the tumor in real time — you could see it directly under your microscope instead of relying on an image that was taken before surgery.”

Though the team’s research focused on medulloblastomas, Gephart said it’s likely the new knottins could prove useful in addressing other cancers.

“We know that integrins exist on many types of tumors,” she said. “The blood vessels that tumors develop to sustain themselves also contain integrins. So this has the potential for providing very detailed, real-time imaging for a wide variety of tumors.”

And imaging may not be the only application for the team’s engineered peptide.

“We’re very interested in related opportunities,” Cochran said. “We envision options we didn’t have before for getting molecules into the brain.” In other words, by substituting drugs for dye, the knottins might allow the delivery of therapeutic compounds directly to cranial tumors — something that has proved extremely difficult to date because of the blood/brain barrier, the mechanism that makes it difficult for pathogens, as well as medicines, to traverse from the bloodstream to the brain.

“We’re looking into it now,” Cochran said.

A little serendipity was involved in the peptide’s development, said Sarah Moore, a recently graduated bioengineering PhD student and another lead author of the study. Indeed, the propinquity of Cochran’s laboratory to co-author Matthew Scott’s lab at Stanford’s James H. Clark Center catalyzed the project. “Our labs are next to each other,” Moore said. “We had the peptide, and Matt had ideal models of pediatric brain tumors  —mice that develop tumors in a similar manner to human medulloblastomas. Our partnership grew out of that.”

Scott, PhD, professor of bioengineering and of developmental biology, credits the design of the Clark Center as a contributor to the project. The building is home to Stanford’s Bioengineering Department, a collaboration between the School of Engineering and the School of Medicine, and Stanford Bio-X, an initiative that encourages communication among researchers in diverse scientific disciplines.

“So in a very real sense, our project wasn’t an accident,” Scott said. “In fact, it’s exactly the kind of work the Clark Center was meant to foster. The lab spaces are wide and open, with very few walls and lots of glass. We have a restaurant that only has large tables — no tables for two, so people have to sit together. Everything is designed to increase the odds that people will meet and talk. It’s a form of social engineering that really works.”

Scott said he is gratified by the collaboration that led to the team’s breakthrough, and observed that the peptide has proved a direct boon to his own work. About 15 percent of Scott’s mice develop the tumors requisite for medulloblastoma research. The problem, he said, is that the cancers are cryptic in their early stages.

“By the time you know the mice have them, many of the things you want to study — the genesis and development of the tumors — are past,” Scott said. “We needed ways to detect these tumors early, and we needed methods for following the steps of tumor genesis.”

Ultimately, Scott concluded, the development of the new peptide can be attributed to Stanford’s long-established traditions of openness and relentless inquiry.

“You find not just a willingness, but an eagerness to exchange ideas and information here,” Scott said. “It transcends any competitive instinct, any impulse toward proprietary thinking. It is what makes Stanford — well, Stanford.”

The Stanford Center for Children’s Brain Tumors at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital is supporting ongoing work by the group to translate the new technology into patient care. Additional funding came from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, the V Foundation for Cancer Research, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the Stanford Cancer Institute, the National Science Foundation, a Stanford University graduate fellowship, a Siebel Scholars fellowship, a Gerald J. Lieberman fellowship, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the Stanford Child Health Research Institute.

Other Stanford co-authors were postdoctoral scholar Jamie Bergen, PhD; medical student Yourong Sophie Su; and life science research assistant Helen Rayburn.

Glen Martin is a freelance writer in Santa Rosa, Calif., for the School of Engineering’s communications office.

Courtesy of the Stanford News Service

For more information: http://paloalto.patch.com/groups/around-town/p/stanford-scientists-illuminate-brain-tumors-in-mice

Ivy Foundation in Oncology Times

The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation has awarded the following individuals grants and funding for brain cancer research in 2012:

  • Greg D. Foltz, MD, Director of the Ben & Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment at the Swedish Medical Center, $2.5 million over three years;
  • John Carpten, PhD, and David Craig, PhD, both of the Translational Genomics Research Institute for a collaborative effort with researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, UCLA, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and University of Utah, $5 million over five years; and
  • Brandy Wells, Manager of Science Education and Outreach at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, has received $45,000 annually for the Ivy Neurological Sciences Internship Program.

For more information: http://journals.lww.com/oncology-times/Fulltext/2013/06250/SHOP_TALK__Appointments,_Promotions,_Honors,.18.aspx

A Little Support Can Go a Long Way

Who needs hair when you have the world’s most amazing friends?

Fifteen fourth grade boys from El Camino Creek Elementary School in Carlsbad, Calif., volunteered to shave their heads to support Travis Selinka, who was recently treated for brain cancer.

Selinka, 10, had returned to school with apprehensions after 7 weeks of radiation therapy, Encinitas Patch reported.

And so, his friends planned a trip to the All American Barber Shop to have their own locks shorn off.

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travis selinka

“I was astonished that they did this for me,” Selinka told Patch. “It was amazing just knowing that I have all my friends there.”

Now, Selinka no longer wears a hat to school, FOX 5 San Diego reported. He and his mother told the station that they were thankful for his friends’ actions.

“It was overwhelming and every time I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes,” Lynne Selinka, Travis’ mother, said.

For more information: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/13/travis-selinka-friends-shave-heads_n_3434720.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003