Lab Update: August 2017

These are exciting times in pediatric neuro-oncology research, and nowhere is that excitement felt more than right here in the CBTP labs. We have recently doubled in size, thanks to the generous support of our families and friends. Where once our two teams worked side by side, taking parallel paths toward our common goal, now we are four. And we couldn’t be happier about that. Read more

Family Corner: Kathy Arabia

It is always a heartwarming and emotional experience to meet with other families who have lost a child to brain cancer. I had the true pleasure to connect with a group of parents, all of whom had lost a child to the rare brain cancer gliomatosis cerebri, at the Second International Gliomatosis Cerebri Conference, which was recently held at the National Institutes of Health.

The powerful emotions we felt were highlighted by the fact that we were there with a number of the brightest neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, researchers, and others who were fully committed to learning more about this cancer, sharing research, and finding effective treatments so no other families would have to go through such a loss. Read more

On the Horizon: Focused Ultrasound for Brain Tumors?

Dr. Michael Kaplitt, our Vice Chair for Research, made news this summer when he became the first in New York to use Magnetic Resonance-guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS) to treat patients with essential tremor, just a week after the technology received FDA approval. The completely non-invasive technique uses 1,000 low-energy ultrasound waves focused on a precise spot in the brain, each individual wave sparing healthy tissue while the combined energy destroys its target. Read more

Sharing Results of Brain Tumor Research

The Children’s Brain Tumor Project made amazing progress this year, not only in terms of what we learned but also in what we shared. The fact is, getting our discoveries out into the scientific community is just as important as making them in the first place. Research is such an iterative process—we make a small but significant finding and share it by publishing an academic paper read by colleagues around the world, which they then use to advance their own work. They publish their new findings, which we then read and use to inspire our next steps. Back and forth, one step at a time, we move the science forward.

That’s why 2016 was such a big year for us. We made some very interesting findings, but we also concentrated on sharing them. The Internet is a big help here, since it shortens the time it takes to disseminate information. An accepted paper can spend months in the queue for publication, but academic journals now publish electronically in advance of print. That gets our findings into circulation much faster, and it also lets us learn from other labs in a more timely way. Read more

Lab Update: November 2016

There’s an old adage that says if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. Research science rarely adheres to that—investigators spend a lot of lonely hours peering into microscopes and scrolling through endless data points, all in the hope that someday all that solo work will add up to a breakthrough. We often go alone, and go far, but usually not fast.

The Children’s Brain Tumor Project has also defied that adage in that we are going fast, but together. This requires teamwork like no other—we need other labs at Weill Cornell, tissue banks around the country, and other scientists comparing notes and sharing findings—because we know we need to move quickly, and get far. Read more

Family Corner: Emmie and Mike Minter

On New Year’s Eve 2010 our lives took an unimaginable turn: A doctor told us that our seemingly healthy 19-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, had inoperable brain cancer. We were advised to take her home, find palliative care, and expect her to succumb to her disease within the year. Words cannot describe our devastation, despair, and anger. How is it possible in this day, when we send space probes to the edge of the solar system and develop driverless cars, that there can there be no effective treatment options? There was literally no hope—only prayers for a miracle. Read more

Family Corner: Barbara Zak Anderson

They say that life is a highway and its milestones are the years,
And now and then there’s a toll-gate where you buy your way with tears.
—Joyce Kilmer (“Roofs,” 1917)

September is all about milestones, with its back-to-school firsts and the excitement of new beginnings. This year we have a special milestone: After 40+ years in my childhood home, including 14 years raising our family in it, the Andersons have moved! That house was a home base we had only ever planned on expanding, but Hurricane Irene five years ago, then Sandy a year later, was the beginning of the end. We began to mourn our home then, but we never could have imagined what was yet to come. I’ve learned a lot in the past five years about “the best laid plans.” Read more

Exciting Results from the ”Summer Sprint”

Thanks to a number of grants and private donations, in July and August the CBTP lab team was joined by several young researchers working on specific projects to advance the field of pediatric neuro-oncology. This “summer sprint” was an unprecedented effort that produced some excellent results.

Umberto Tosi, funded by a POST grant from the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, worked on a project to improve the measurement of drug delivery to the brain via “theranostic” (therapeutic and diagnostic) agents.

The usual method of determining whether a drug has been successfully delivered is to wait for a clinical response, a “wait-and-see” approach that is neither timely nor precise. If researchers could modify a drug to make it fluorescent—and therefore visible on PET or MRI imaging—they would be able to see in real time whether that drug has reached its target. The key is to make delivery of the drug visible and measurable without reducing its effectiveness. Read more