Brain Cancer SPORE

SPORE Overview

What is the Brain Cancer SPORE?

The Brain Tumor Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center established a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) for the study of brain cancer under the leadership of principal investigator, W. K. Alfred Yung, M.D., and co-principal investigator, Oliver Bögler, Ph.D., in July of 2008. Since that time the SPORE grant has been renewed under the leadership of Frederick Lang, MD, and Juan Fueyo, MD, making MD Anderson one of only five programs in the nation with a Brain Cancer SPORE grant. This grant supports an outstanding multidisciplinary group of investigators whose research is both innovative and translational.

Why is the research being conducted by the Brain Cancer SPORE so important?

Nearly 360,000 people are living in the United States with a diagnosis of a primary brain tumor or central nervous system tumor. In 2016, an estimated 23,770 people will receive a brain cancer diagnosis, according to the NIH. Sadly, the median survival for glioblastoma (GBM), the most common and aggressive primary brain tumor, is 14.6 months; despite surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy [1]. As other cancers have progressed in their treatment methodologies over the past 20 years, advances in brain cancer treatment have only been incremental.

What has the Brain Cancer SPORE at MD Anderson Cancer Center accomplished?

The current Brain Cancer SPORE at MD Anderson Cancer Center builds upon the significant progress achieved in the initial funding period, including the development of new biological (oncolytic virus, stem cell delivery), targeted (PI3K inhibitors), and immunomodulatory (p-STAT-3 inhibitor) therapeutic strategies. Our initial projects led to the first-in-human Phase I clinical trial of the oncolytic virus Delta-24-RGD, a GBM-specific Phase II clinical trial of the PI3K inhibitor BKM120, and an IND for a new immunological therapy WP-1066. We also advanced glioma diagnosis by developing a prognostic biomarker profile (9-Gene Signature) for “personalizing” GBM care, which was incorporated into two large Phase III trials (RTOG-0525; RTOG-0825).

What is the current Brain Cancer SPORE’s goals?

Utilizing the renewal of the SPORE grant, our goal is to capitalize on our prior successes in order to improve the outcome of patients with malignant gliomas through a continued multidisciplinary, integrated, flexible, and highly translational research program. To achieve this, our brain tumor clinical translational SPORE will expound upon five major cutting edge themes in brain tumor research:

1) Improve the efficacy of biotherapy approaches
2) Understand the optimal application of molecularly targeted therapies
3) Overcome immunosuppression in GBMs using rational molecular approaches
4) Develop and validate prognostic and predictive markers for personalized medicine in gliomas
5) Exploit new in vitro and in vivo models for maximizing predictability of preclinical studies    

To read more in depth about the five SPORE projects and Cores A-E, click here.

What are the strengths of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Brain Cancer SPORE?

1) Our established ability to conceive, develop, and translate novel therapeutic approaches to the clinic in biologically based trials
2) The assembly of a group of highly reputed brain tumor researchers with established track records for translational research
3) Extensive collaborations between SPORE investigators within and outside the SPORE
4) Diverse projects that attack malignant glioma from unique perspectives (biotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy)
5) Strong cores providing infrastructure for mission critical resources
6) Robust Career Development Program and Development Research Program that expanded our SPORE-directed research or have spun into independent research programs

Overall, our studies have significant potential to improve the diagnosis and outcome of patients with malignant brain tumors.   

How is the MD Anderson Cancer Center Brain Cancer SPORE mentoring the next generation of translational investigators?

The goal of the Career Development Program is to provide training and guidance from academic physician-scientists, clinical-investigators, and laboratory-based scientists to individuals who wish to dedicate their efforts to improving the diagnosis and treatment of brain tumors through translational research. Similarly, Developmental Research Projects promote interdisciplinary research and move basic research findings from the laboratory to clinical settings. During the initial Brain Cancer SPORE, 14 Career Research Project Awards and 13 Developmental Research Project Awards were granted to MD Anderson Cancer Center investigators. One of initial Developmental Research Projects was elevated to a full SPORE project under the renewed Brain Cancer SPORE Award.

2016 Career Development Awardees:

Krishna Bhat, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Translational Molecular Pathology
“Disrupting the collagen architecture to inhibit TAZ/YAP signaling in glioblastoma”

Kunal Rai, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Genomic Medicine
“Contribution of epigenome to glioblastoma multiforme”

2016 Development Research Project Awardees:

Jian Hu, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Cancer Biology
“Targeting aberrant quality control systems in quaking deficient malignant glioma cells”

Florian Muller, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Cancer System Imaging
“Nerstian Probes as vectors for imaging and therapeutic modalities in Glioblastoma”

Zhimin Lu, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Neuro-Oncology
“Determining the mechanism underlying the initiation of autophagy”

George A. Calin, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Experimental Therapeutics
“A combined ‘miRNA-miRNA’ therapy for primary glioblastomas (GBM)”

Candelaria Gomez-Manzano, M.D., Associate Professor, Neuro-Oncology
“Role of Tie2-mediated H4Tyr51 Phosphorylation in the Radioresistance of Gliomas”

Pratip Bhattacharya, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Cancer System Imaging
“Hyperpolarized Metabolic Imaging of Brain Cancer Therapy to Predict Outcome”

Developmental Research Project Award Supported by the Broach Foundation:

Hillary Caruso, Ph.D., Research Scientist, Neurosurgery Research
“Rational design of affinity-optimized PDGFRα chimeric antigen receptor for targeted, personalized therapy of glioblastoma”

[1] Stupp, R., W.P. Mason, M.J. van den Bent, M. Weller, B. Fisher, M.J. Taphoorn, K. Belanger, A.A. Brandes, C. Marosi, U. Bogdahn, J. Curschmann, R.C. Janzer, S.K. Ludwin, T. Gorlia, A. Allgeier, D. Lacombe, J.G. Cairncross, E. Eisenhauer, and R.O. Mirimanoff, Radiotherapy plus concomitant and adjuvant temozolomide for glioblastoma. N Engl J Med, 2005. 352(10): p. 987-96.