N.C. – Oct. 16, 2017 – Glioblastoma is the most aggressive cancer that originates in the brain. Current
therapies can slow the disease, but more often than not can’t cure it.
However, thanks to a $9.2
million grant from the National Cancer Institute, scientists at Wake Forest
Baptist Medical Center will continue working to develop new, more effective
treatments and delivery systems to attack this difficult to manage form of
“One of the major obstacles
to glioblastoma treatment is the accessibility of the tumors to drugs because
of the blood-brain and blood-brain tumor barriers,” said the principal
investigator of the study, Waldemar Debinski, M.D., Ph.D., professor of cancer
biology, radiation oncology and microbiology and immunology at Wake Forest
“In addition, a surgical
approach is often hampered by the inability to fully visualize tumor cells that
have migrated away from the tumor and remove them surgically without potentially
damaging vital areas of the brain.”
Debinski, director of the
Brain Tumor Center of Excellence at Wake Forest Baptist, pioneered a method to
destroy malignant brain tumor cells without harming healthy cells.
The goal of the five-year
grant is to use clinically relevant models to develop the next generation of
molecularly targeted drugs to directly attack the tumor mass and cancer cells
in surrounding areas where they may have infiltrated. The team also is
designing new drug delivery systems to increase access to the tumors by
directly accessing the tumor and its vicinities or by disrupting the
blood-brain and blood-brain tumor barriers to enhance the therapeutic efficacy
of novel drugs, Debinski said.
The Wake Forest Baptist multi-disciplinary
team will work with scientists at the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest School of
Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer
Center, University of Texas at Austin and Columbia University, with whom they
have a long history of collaborative research.
Leaders of the research
team are: Steve Tatter, M.D., Ph.D., Ralph D’Agostino, Ph.D., and Christopher
Whitlow, M.D., Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist; Christopher Rylander, Ph.D., of
the University of Texas at Austin; John H. Rossmeisl, Jr., D.V.M., and Rafael Davalos, Ph.D.,of Virginia
Tech, and Akiva Mintz, M.D., Ph.D., of Columbia University.