Brain tumors can be one of the most lethal forms of cancer. Although surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy provide some relief, the survival rates for those afflicted with brain tumors such as glioblastoma have not changed significantly in the past 30 years. New approaches are needed to develop more selective therapies that can eliminate those tumor cells that have infiltrated brain tissue and are actively resisting the body’s defense mechanisms.
By studying the role of the immune system in MS, Dr. Howard Weiner’s team created an antibody for regulating aspects of the immune system. When MS researchers shared this antibody information with researchers working on glioblastoma, it sparked the idea to test how the antibody would impact brain tumors. The researchers found the antibody worked successfully and could lead to potential new treatments for brain tumors—an exciting and unexpected discovery that would not have occurred without the cross-disease collaboration that the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases specializes in.
For more information about the Brain Tumor Center at BWH and associated resources, visit: http://www.brighamandwomens.org/Departments_and_Services/neurosurgery/OurServices/brain-tumor-center.aspx?sub=1
BREAKING NEW GROUND IN BRAIN TUMOR RESEARCH
Widely recognized as a pioneer in the field, Anna Krichevsky, PhD, is spearheading innovative and encouraging research on malignant brain tumors. With only marginal improvements in survival rates over the past 25 years, new approaches are urgently needed to better treat this devastating disease. Dr. Krichevsky and her team are focused on the role of microRNA in brain tumor development—small RNA molecules that regulate gene expression—as these molecules also represent a promising class of targets for tumor treatment. The team is focused specifically on miR-10b, a microRNA abundant in most brain tumors, which promotes tumor growth and appears essential for the survival of tumor cells. The team has discovered a gene editing technique to eliminate miR-10b within the tumor, halting its activity and killing the cancer cells. They are now working to optimize this potentially life-saving therapeutic strategy, which stands to provide a common therapy with widespread impact for the thousands of patients diagnosed with brain tumors each year.
NEW FRONTIERS IN BRAIN IMAGING
With the opening of the Building for Transformative Medicine, clinicians and researchers at the center now have access to advanced tools and opportunities to collaborate, pushing the boundaries of discovery in ways that have never been possible before. Research teams will be able to leverage state-of-the-art imaging technologies, including a 7 Tesla (7.0T) MRI scanner, the newest and most powerful MRI machine available and the first to be installed in a clinical setting in North America. Due to arrive in 2017, the 7.0T will allow clinicians and researchers to visualize structures and pathways not previously visible by MRI, offering new insight into otherwise unseen processes. The vastly improved signal will help differentiate between conditions with similar symptoms and allow doctors to choose the best treatment options for patients. The 7.0T will at first be used exclusively for clinical research, with the hope that it will soon be approved by the FDA for clinical use. A true game changer, this new instrument will help our research teams to propel work forward across all five disease areas, paving the way toward a new era in diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment for neurologic diseases.
BWH Office of Strategic Communications