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Cancer researchers receive NIH grant to advance brain tumor therapies from lab to clinical trials

Cancer researchers at Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) will further develop novel treatments for brain tumors through a new, five-year, $6.24 million grant to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) will fund three projects aimed at developing cutting-edge treatment strategies for a type of brain tumor known as gliomas. The projects are led by principal investigator Ian Pollack, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Childrens Hospital and director of the UPCI Brain Tumor Program. This is the second five-year grant the Brain Tumor Program project has received from the NINDS.

In the laboratory over the last five years, our researchers have developed three unique and promising approaches to treating gliomas, which are the most common form of brain tumors, Dr. Pollack said. Over the next five years, our goal is to take these approaches from the laboratory to clinical trial and begin to have a direct impact on patients diagnosed with brain tumors.

The three projects and their respective investigators are:

  • Molecularly targeted therapies that interrupt the signaling pathways in the brain that drive tumor growth Dr. Pollack, also the Walter Dandy Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

  • Immunotherapy using segments of proteins that are overexpressed by brain tumors to vaccinate patients against tumor growth Hideho Okada, MD, PhD, associate professor in the departments of Neurological Surgery and Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

  • Viral vectors (a modified herpes virus) to kill tumor cells while leaving other cells intact Joseph C. Glorioso III, PhD, chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; and Paola Grandi, PhD, an assistant professor in the departments of Neurological Surgery and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Every year about 19,000 children and adults are diagnosed with primary brain tumors, according to the National Cancer Institute. Malignant gliomas are the most common, accounting for more than half and including astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas and glioblastoma multiforme.

Current conventional therapies for malignant brain tumors, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, are often unsatisfactory for controlling these tumors, and the vast majority recur, Dr. Pollack said. We believe the projects here in Pittsburgh hold promise in improving the treatment of these challenging tumors.


Contact: Marc Lukasiak
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

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