Neuro-Oncology at the Cancer Center is at the forefront of clinical research, participating in the first therapeutic trial conducted in patients with glioblastomas in the United States. Moreover, the Cancer Center was part of a National Cancer Institute( NCI)-supported Central Nervous System consortium, the American Brain Tumor Consortium (ABTC), (previously known as New Approaches to Brain Tumor Therapy, NABTT), under the leadership of Glenn Lesser, MD.
ABTC is a group of academic medical centers conducting research using the most innovative and predominantly experimental therapies. Furthermore, the Cancer Center was first to test the GliaSite Radiation Therapy System, one of only four new treatments approved for brain tumors in the past two decades. Stephen Tatter, MD, was the neurosurgeon who performed the first GliaSite procedure for a brain tumor patient in the US.
Brain Tumor Clinical Trials
In addition to studies written and conducted at WFU School of Medicine (WFSM), the BTCOE also participates in clinical trials sponsored by the Children’s Oncology Group, American College of Surgical Oncology Group, Radiation Therapy Oncology Group, and the pharmaceutical industry. In 1999, WFBMC expanded its treatment options even further when it became the first hospital in the state of North Carolina to offer Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery.
Gamma Knife Center
The Wake Forest Gamma Knife Center is one of the busiest in the country, seeing and treating patients from throughout the Southeast region. Edward Shaw, MD, MS, and former chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology served as president of the Society for Neuro-Oncology (SNO) in 2001-2003. Waldemar Debinski, MD, PhD, joined the Cancer Center in 2004 as first director of the BTCOE.
Thomas K. Hearn, Jr. Brain Tumor Research Center
The research center that focuses on brain tumors is named in honor of former Wake Forest University President Thomas K. Hearn Jr., PhD, who helped direct funding to the cause both before and during his battle with the disease.
Neuro-oncology at Wake Forest Baptist has been nationally recognized for years, and with the establishment of the Brain Tumor Center of Excellence has become a more comprehensive academic endeavor.
Hearn served as Wake Forest president from 1983-2005. In addition to helping expand research funding, he and his wife Laura were founding members of the Medical Center's National Cancer Advisory Board. He was treated for a brain tumor in late 2003 at Wake Forest Baptist. He died in August 2008 following a recurrence of the cancer.
Under the direction of Waldemar Debinski, MD, PhD, researchers at the Hearn Brain Tumor Research Center focus on finding solutions that benefit patients with brain tumors by:
- Developing novel approaches to therapy
- Protecting delicate healthy brain tissue against possible harmful effects of treatment
- Obtaining images of the disease and the effects of treatment on the disease using safe and sensitive methods of detection
- Using the best possible models for pre-clinical examination of therapies or preventive measures (in collaboration with the Virginia Tech School of Veterinary Medicine)
- Enhancing the quality of life for patients and taking care of their emotional needs as well their family members' needs