Cancer Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Receive $9 Million Grant to Study Aggressive Brain Cancer

October 16, 2017

WINSTON-SALEM, 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 cancer.

“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 Baptist.

“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.  

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Marguerite Beck:, 336-716-2415