Funded Grants

A New Approach to the Treatment of Brain Tumors

Despite substantial progress in the treatment of cancer, it remains the second leading cause of death in the United States and is expected to become the leading cause of death within the next decade. The prevalence and gravity of the disorder, its refractoriness to current approaches, and the toxicity and disabilities caused by current therapies suggest that fundamentally new approaches must be developed. This is a proposal to develop such a new approach based upon the convergence of two technologies, nanotechnology/materials science and stem cell biology, and their application to the treatment of brain tumors. Brain tumors are among the most devastating cancers. Primary brain tumors affect approximately 20,000 patients each year in the United States with about 12,500 deaths annually. Despite significant advances in surgical techniques, delivery of radiation, and chemotherapy, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) remains a dire diagnosis, with a median survival of just over 14 months. Nearly 90% of patients suffer from tumor recurrence adjacent to the site of initial tumor resection despite radiographic evidence of disease remission following initial therapy. In part, tumor recurrence occurs because these tumors are not encapsulated and are thus not surgically curable; at the time of presentation, tumor cells have already migrated beyond the tumor mass and infiltrated surrounding brain.

The cancer stem cell (CSC) theory posits that treatment failures reflect persistence of brain tumor stem cells (BTSCs) following therapy (1,2). CSCs are characterized by the property of self-renewal (ability to produce more CSCs), and the capacity to generate all the various cell types that comprise a tumor. In addition, CSCs are thought to share many properties with normal stem cells