April 16, 2015 | by Denise Heady
The need for improvements in treating malignant brain tumors has never been greater. Survival for many patients with these tumors are sometimes measured in just months.
One reason that therapeutic options are limited is that traditional surgery is deemed too risky for many brain tumors, especially for those in hard-to-reach areas or in parts of the brain that control vital functions. Further, traditional treatment approaches have yielded only minor advances in the past few decades.
That's why Behnam Badie, M.D., chief of the Division of Neurosurgery, along with other researchers and physicians at City of Hope, are developing novel therapies for cancer of the brain. “Being a neurosurgeon is not enough,” Badie said recently in an interview with BBC. “It has to be through science and technology. And that’s one of the reasons I came to City of Hope.”
Here are four ways in which City of Hope is advancing brain tumor treatment.
1. Using stem cells to deliver drugs into tumors
Neural stem cells have the ability to deliver anti-cancer therapies directly to the site of a brain tumor, without damaging healthy tissue. The latest study of this approach – from Karen Aboody, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurosciences and Division of Neurosurgery, and Jana Portnow, M.D., associate director of the Brain Tumor Program – will help determine the maximum tolerated dose of neural stem cells that can be safely administered directly into the brain. The researchers are also studying the possibility of administering repeat doses of the neural stem cells. A phase I clinical trial of this approach is currently underway.
2. Using CAR T cells to fight cancer
Normally the body responds to invaders, such as germs and bacteria, by deploying white bloods to dispatch any potential threat. However, brain tumors are, in a way, smart enough to knock out the body’s immune system, Badie said. So to thwart the cancer cells, Badie, alongside Christine Brown, Ph.D., associate director of the T cell Therapeutics Research Laboratory, is taking a specific type of white blood cells – called T cells, or T lymphcytes – and modifying the cells to specifically target the invasive brain tumor cells. Two early-stage clinical trials of this approach have been completed at City of Hope, and another clinical trial will begin accepting patients in May. Learn more about T cell therapy for cancer.
3. Fighting brain tumors with nanoparticles
Researcher Jacob Berlin, Ph.D., is working with Badie to explore the use of nanoparticles to help boost the immune system and fight brain tumors. The researchers believe that nanoparticles can activate the immune system to attack tumor cells in the brain. Badie and Berlin are working on optimizing this treatment for future in-human studies.
4. Creating new devices to deliver treatment to brain tumor
To help deliver the novel therapies being developed at City of Hope, Badie is creating a robotic cell therapy delivery device. The device creates a cavity within the tumor that would give surgeons an opportunity to release the nanoparticles, engineered T cells and neural stem cells directly into the tumor itself. Badie believes this device has the potential to transform the way surgeons treat brain tumors.
Through such visionary approaches, the future of brain tumor treatment will continue to evolve, offering more hope and saving more lives.
Learn more about the Brain Tumor Program at City of Hope.
Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.