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Brain Boost

Conquest - Fall 2008

In 2008, it’s expected that nearly 22,000 new cases of brain or central nervous system tumors will be diagnosed. And, according to the National Cancer Institute, about 13,000 people will die from brain malignancies.

With support from a five-year, $11.5 million Specialized Programs of Research Excellence grant from the NCI, M. D. Anderson researchers hope to take a bite out of those statistics.

The brain tumor SPORE builds on institutional expertise in several departments. Funds from the translational research grant will help advance two new therapeutic approaches for malignant brain tumors, including glioblastoma multiforme, and develop biomarkers to guide treatment decisions.

“All four of the projects funded by this grant apply molecular and genetic approaches to develop new targeted therapies and biomarkers that will improve treatment by personalizing therapy,” says W.K. Alfred Yung, M.D., chair of the Department of Neuro-Oncology and co-principal investigator on the SPORE with Oliver Bogler, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery.

Project 1:
Deploying a tumor-killing virus
The engineered adenovirus Delta-24-RGD, developed at M. D. Anderson, will advance to clinical trial, and a second-generation version will be developed as a single therapy and in combination with other drugs. Delta-24 will be injected directly into tumors during a Phase I clinical trial that’s under review at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Principal investigators: Juan Fueyo, M.D., associate professor, Department of Neuro-Oncology; Frederick Lang, M.D., professor, Department of Neurosurgery.

The SPORE Score:
11 and Counting

When it comes to SPOREs,
M. D. Anderson has no peers.

The Specialized Programs of Research Excellence grant for brain tumor research marks the 11th such award M. D. Anderson has received from the National Cancer Institute — the most held by any institution.

“This award marks a very significant event for M. D. Anderson and indicates the important role that the institution plays in the field of translational research,” says Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., provost and executive vice president. “We’re essentially leading the way in developing multidisciplinary research teams to accelerate the transition of basic knowledge into the clinic.”

M. D. Anderson’s other SPORE grants are in leukemia and melanoma as well as breast, genitourinary, pancreatic, ovarian, uterine, head and neck, prostate and lung cancers. The lung SPORE is shared with The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Cancer type

Total funding


$11.5 million


$11.9 million


$26.6 million

Head and neck

$13.7 million


$23.9 million


$12.8 million


$11.2 million


$23.8 million


$4.9 million


$13.6 million


$9.6 million


$163.5 million


Project 2:
Blocking a malignant pathway
Drugs that block a molecular signaling cascade known to fuel brain tumors — the PI3K pathway — will be developed and tested in Phase I trials. Individual targeted molecules and rational drug combinations will be studied for their potential to inhibit PI3K.

Principal investigators: Garth Powis, D.Phil., chair, Department of Experimental Therapeutics; W.K. Alfred Yung, M.D., chair, Department of Neuro-Oncology; Oliver Bogler, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Neurosurgery.

Project 3:
Identifying treatment guideposts
Researchers are developing and validating a set of genes that predict survival and sensitivity to treatment for glioblastoma patients. This biomarker approach to sorting out personalized treatment is being conducted in collaboration with clinical trials testing a variety of therapies and combinations for glioblastoma.

Principal investigators: Kenneth Aldape, M.D., professor, Department of Pathology; Howard Colman, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Neuro-Oncology.

Project 4:
Pinpointing genetic role in brain impairment
By analyzing the genetic makeup of glioblastoma patients and relating it to the type and degree of cognitive impairment they experience after radiation treatment, researchers aim to identify and understand genes that affect cognitive outcomes.

Principal investigators: Melissa Bondy, Ph.D., professor, Department of Epidemiology; Christina Meyers, Ph.D., professor, Department of Neuro-Oncology.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center