Glioblastoma Research Projects
MOON SHOTS PROGRAM
Glioblastoma Flagship Projects
Our research projects address the crucial issues facing glioblastoma patients by focusing our largest efforts on the treatment approaches that have near‐term measurable success. Research efforts of the Glioblastoma Moon Shot® are aimed at unlocking the anti-tumor potential of the immune system, developing innovative approaches to fight this complex disease and enhancing our understanding of the factors that trigger and promote glioblastoma.
Unlocking the anti-tumor potential of the immune system to better fight brain cancer
Treating this immensely complex disease through innovative biological approaches
Enhancing drug development and selection through a better understanding of the factors controlling glioblastoma progression
The Glioblastoma Moon Shot team uses a unique ‘window of opportunity’ clinical trial strategy to assess the impact of immunotherapies on glioblastoma patient outcomes. In this strategy, patients receive immunotherapy prior to surgical removal of their brain tumor. After surgical removal, the tumor is analyzed to determine how it responded to the immunotherapy. This information enables physicians to learn how the tumor responded to the previously administered immunotherapy, and whether the treatment strategy needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Several clinical trials evaluating whether immunotherapy benefits glioblastoma patient outcomes are already underway. One trial is examining whether powerful immune cells engineered to detect cytomegalovirus (CMV) particles on malignant brain cancer cells can elicit strong anti-tumor responses. This is currently an open Phase I/II trial conducted only at MD Anderson.
A major stumbling block in brain cancer treatment is the delivery of drugs beyond the blood-brain barrier. While Delta-24-RGD injections have already shown clinical success, our experts are exploring ways to transport this drug directly to tumors using stem cells as carriers.
To explore what made Delta-24-RGD so successful, we analyzed patient samples from the Phase I trial to better understand the biology of how this treatment affected both the tumors themselves and patients' immune responses. We found that, in addition to killing cancer directly, the virus is able to trigger anti-tumor immune responses of patients. This immune response likely aids in the success of this therapy. Our experts theorize that combining this therapy with immunotherapy drugs, such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, will further improve the glioblastoma patient outcomes that occur as a result of this treatment. A Phase IB study combining Delta-24-RGD with interferon gamma, an agent that strongly activates the immune system, is in progress.
Understanding the factors that promote glioblastoma progression will maximize the efficiency of our clinical trials and result in treatments arriving to the clinic sooner. By selecting targeted therapy candidates only after their biological relevance has been thoroughly evaluated in our preclinical laboratories, drug activity and protocol changes can be quickly assessed and enacted early in trial progression.
Fully characterizing the molecular biology of glioblastoma will also allow for our investigators to:
- Predict when a low grade glioma undergoes malignant transformation
- Study the unique features of those glioblastoma patients that make them long-term survivors
- Develop a “liquid biopsy” to detect therapeutic targets in individual tumors and use this information to guide treatment strategy and monitor patient response to treatment