Carbone Cancer Center Team Awarded Grant to Study Brain Tumor Treatment
A team of University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center scientists have received a grant to test how new medicines can treat brain cancer.
Dr. John Kuo and Dr. Eric Shusta, both members of the Experimental Therapeutics research group at the Cancer Center, model the blood brain barrier in the lab. The blood brain barrier (BBB) is the tight blood vessel network that helps keep unwanted chemicals and pathogens from affecting the brain. This same defense mechanism also keeps drugs that treat brain tumors from being effective.
The new grant was awarded by the National Institutes of Health to Dr. Kuo, Dr. Shusta and their partner Dr. Sean Palecek, a member of the Tumor Microenvironment research group at the Cancer Center. It will give the team an opportunity to develop an effective BBB model to speed up the testing process of new brain drugs.
Over the last 20 years, many promising drugs have failed in clinical trials because they do not pass through the blood brain barrier into the brain. Currently, there is no BBB model that mimics its function in humans properly, which means that clinical trials are done on a case-by-case basis in cancer patients and others with neurological disorders.
The new project came together when Dr. Shusta, himself an expert on the blood brain barrier, began working with Professor Palecek on finding a way to use induced pluripotent stem cells to build a better BBB model. After some work together they brought in Dr. Kuo, a brain tumor surgeon and researcher in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, to find real-world applications of the research.
The new model designed by Drs. Kuo, Shusta, Palecek will test brain tumor drugs in a petri dish instead of in the human body. By simulating the blood brain barrier outside of the body, the Cancer Center team can measure the activity of 100s - 1000s of drugs simultaneously.
"The goal is to screen many brain tumor therapies using our model to help predict those that may be most well suited to move forward into clinical trials from a delivery and efficacy perspective", says Dr. Shusta. "I think it is safe to say that none of us could do this on our own."
Date Published: 11/11/2010