Brain Tumors

Primary brain tumors are tumors that arise inside the brain. They are distinguished from secondary brain tumors, which are cancers that spread (metastasize) to the brain from other areas of the body such as the breast or lung. Certain types of primary brain tumors such as meningiomas, which originate in membranes lining the brain, can be successfully resected by surgery. However, a large fraction of brain tumors arise from glial cells, which are support cells for neurons. These tumors, commonly known as gliomas, are highly lethal, as tumor cells typically disperse throughout healthy brain tissue, which makes complete surgical resection impossible. The blood-brain barrier, which shields the brain from most available cancer drugs, poses another obstacle for brain tumor therapy. Despite intense research efforts over the last decade, malignant gliomas remain therefore one of the deadliest types of cancer. Research teams at Mount Sinai are tackling this lethal disease by studying the molecular and cellular components that drive brain tumors, and developing novel strategies to effectively deliver anti-cancer agents to the tumor site.

Areas of Research

Molecular Characteristics of Glioma Stem Cells

Glioma stem cells have been described as tumor cells that behave like stem cells (self-renewal and multipotency), with enhanced resistance to chemotherapy and radiation as compared to non-stem cells. The glioma stem cells are thus likely to be the source of cells from which a tumor regrows after therapy. We are pioneering new avenues of research by defining subsets of glioma stem cells in mouse transplant studies with viral lineage markers, which will lead us to understand molecular programs that control renewal and survival of cancer stem cells. Armed with this knowledge, we aim to design novel clinical interventions and, ultimately, improve outcomes for glioma patients.

Scientists involved: Roland Friedel, Hongyan Zou, Nadejda Tsankova

Prognostic Genetic Factors for Success of Brain Tumor Therapy

The inherent genetic instability of cancer cells and their resulting adaptive abilities is a major reason why gliomas inevitably recur following treatment and are ultimately fatal.  A greater understanding of the cancer genome as a dynamic, three-dimensional structure will lead to the development of new strategies that attempt to address cancer evolution directly. As well, the lab seeks to understand how current standard treatment regimes, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, interact with the cancer genome to influence the way in which tumor cells change through time and diversify in different compartments in the brain.

Scientists involved: Raymund Young

Systems Pharmacology of Brain Tumor Chemotherapy

Our laboratory characterizes the pharmakokinetic and pharmakodynamic properties of anticancer drugs for brain tumors. These studies have a common goal of understanding the variables that influence drug disposition and dynamics in the tumor. Through the use of detailed measurements of drug concentrations we build physiologically-based models that provide mechanistic information and allow for model predictions to be made. The progression of preclinical studies may lead to new drug treatment strategies and means to optimize drug treatment regimens in patients.

Scientists involved: James M. Gallo

Glioma Therapy by Gene Delivery Through Stem Cells

We investigate new strategies for adjuvant treatment of malignant brain tumors. With the support from the National Institutes of Health, NIH, private foundations and Industry, the laboratory investigates new promising modalities and compounds to kill brain tumor cells. A special emphasis is put on embryonic stem cells, which are currently tested as gene delivery vehicles in animal models of brain tumors.

Scientists involved: Isabella Germano

Contact Us

Roland Friedel, PhD
Phone: 212-659-5529
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Icahn Medical Institute
Tenth Floor, Room 20F
1425 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10029

Hongyan Zou, MD, PhD
Phone: 212-659-8694
Fax: 212-849-2599  
Send e-mail

Icahn Medical Institute
Tenth Floor, Room 20E
1425 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10029