Amy Heimberger, M.D. discusses the future of glioblastoma treatment research.
As one of the world's largest cancer research centers, MD Anderson is leading the way in developing and evaluating new approaches to brain cancer diagnosis and treatment. Patients benefit from the most advanced brain tumor research, translated into clinical trials as quickly as possible.
Current treatments for both primary brain tumors and brain metastases (cancer that has spread to the brain from another place in the body) are low in number and short on effectiveness. Because brain tumors contain an unusually diverse mix of cells, our plan of attack is diverse as well.
We’re building on biological therapies developed at MD Anderson, like the Delta-24-RGD virus, and testing methods that use the body’s own cells to deliver these therapies more effectively. With advanced models, we’re also screening existing drugs to find targeted combinations that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier. In the cutting-edge field of immunotherapy, our team is working on approaches using T cells, natural killer cells, signaling pathways and checkpoint inhibitors to unleash the immune system to fight brain cancer.
Existing brain tumor treatments are often toxic, threatening neurological function and quality of life. Our scientists are also investigating regenerative medicine approaches to protect and repair the brain during and after treatment. We aim to find better, safer solutions to treat both primary brain tumors and brain metastases.
Brain Tumor Research Initiatives
Our commitment to brain cancer research is echoed through two major programs:
Glioblastoma Moon Shot
Our ambitious effort to quadruple the five-year survival rate for this aggressive brain cancer, from 10% to 40%, in the next decade.
Through unique programs and other pioneering brain tumor research, MD Anderson has:
- Led the initial clinical trials that established temozolomide (Temodar) as the current standard of care for glioblastoma
- Established that surgically removing at least 98% of the tumor improves survival in glioblastoma patients
- Devised unique genetically engineered laboratory models of gliomas to identify cancer drivers and test potential therapies
- Created Delta-24-RGD, a novel cancer-killing virus that has demonstrated significant response in early clinical trials
- Determined how gliomas use a metabolic process known as the “Warburg effect” for cancer growth, laying the groundwork for improved diagnosis and treatment
- Defined molecular signatures of brain tumors and completed a comprehensive genomic analysis of low-grade gliomas, influencing the 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) classification of central nervous system tumors and resulting in more precise diagnosis and treatment planning
- Identified unique drivers of brain metastasis development and illustrated how the central nervous system microenvironment fosters this development
- Demonstrated that brain function is better preserved with radiosurgery than whole brain radiation in patients with brain metastases
Immunotherapy for Glioblastoma
Clinical trials test innovative immunotherapy approaches against brain tumors.
Potential Therapeutic Target Identified
Study suggests that targeting the PGK1 enzyme is likely to increase effectiveness of cancer treatment.
Cancer Cells Thrive in Inhospitable Sites
Study finds that brain cancer cells rely on genetic alterations to survive migration to inhospitable sites within the brain.
Process Crucial to Brain Tumor Formation Uncovered
The discovery of a specific cellular process that enhances the growth rate of cancer cells may provide the molecular basis for improved diagnosis and treatment of brain tumors.
Understanding Neuropsychology & Chemobrain
Chemobrain can occur as a result of brain cancer and causes cognitive changes such as memory loss. Our experts are developing ways to prevent, detect and treat chemobrain.
Unique Subtypes of Diffuse Glioma Identified
Data analyzed from 1,122 samples of low and high grade diffuse gliomas revealed distinct molecular and clinical features, shedding light on the mechanisms driving disease progression.
Yung Named to National Cancer Moonshot Panel
W.K. Alfred Yung, M.D. was named to a blue ribbon panel to advise the National Cancer Institute in its work with Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot.