OUR UNIQUE APPROACH
FOUR PILLARS OF RESEARCH
The more information we can uncover about any specific cancer, the more ways in which we can approach the development of new treatment options. Understanding and exploring the disease from multiple vantage points is essential.
The Children’s Brain Tumor Project at Weill Cornell Medicine is the only lab in the country with a singular focus on rare and inoperable pediatric brain tumors that uses a novel, multi-directional approach integrating key neuroscientific disciplines. This approach enables our team to gain a true understanding of these diseases and how to approach treatment more effectively.
The initiative consists of four united research efforts under the same roof, studying rare pediatric brain tumors from different strategic angles that inform one another in our effort to accelerate cures.
By studying the combination of pharmacology (the science of drugs) and genomics, the CBTP team can quickly identify a brain tumor’s “fingerprints” at the molecular level, allowing for personalized tumor therapy that is uniquely tailored to the individual patient.
The potential to harness the body’s own immune system to fight cancer is met with excitement. However, understanding the interactions between the immune system and brain tumors is critical. We’re researching human brain tumor samples and mouse models to develop a thorough understanding of how brain tumors develop, subsequently identifying therapeutic targets.
Alternative drug delivery methods will help administer therapy directly to the tumor site, bypassing the blood-brain barrier. In addition, the CBTP is developing methods to track delivered drugs to ensure they stay where intended.
Understanding the relationship between developmental biology and cancer is critical in our efforts to inhibit cancer progression. We examine brain development, including the processes of cell differentiation and proliferation—which, when unchecked, can lead to pediatric tumor development and metastases.
Neurosurgery Informing Science
The biology of pediatric brain tumors had remained a mystery until recent years, and genetic data was too scarce to leverage in designing individualized treatment protocols. Yet the current treatment protocols for pediatric brain tumors were failing—and in many cases they still are.
Drs. Greenfield and Souweidane had the answers in their hands, literally, and although they knew it would take time and patience, they committed to (1) making sure that the rare brain tumors they biopsied or resected would be sequenced and data would be shared, and (2) exploring surgical approaches as a means to bypass the blood-brain barrier and deliver drugs directly to the tumors that otherwise can’t be surgically removed.
Today their research lab places an emphasis on rare and inoperable pediatric brain malignancies. They have grown a library of successful cell lines and developed robust in vitro methods to study the behavior of glial cells, neural stem cells, and cancer cells. In vivo methods are also allowing the team to understand the tumor microenvironment as a whole and perform an array of drug testing and delivery methods against various tumor types in animal models. All of this information comes full circle as discoveries in the lab may lend themselves to new treatments that are most effective when delivered via innovative surgical procedures.