Physicians and researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering are investigating ways to improve the diagnosis and treatment of low-grade glioma.
Immunotherapy is an approach in which a person’s own immune system is stimulated to selectively attack cancer cells. Laboratory scientists at the Brain Tumor Center are developing monoclonal antibodies that can attach to specific proteins on the surface of tumor cells. The immune system then recognizes these antibodies and eliminates the cancerous cells to which they have attached.
Although this approach is still under investigation, researchers anticipate that it will enable new treatment strategies that are more targeted to cancer cells and cause fewer side effects.
Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Brain Tumor Center are also performing laboratory studies that aim to better understand the causes of low-grade glioma. These efforts include studying the genes involved in the disease by performing an in-depth sequencing of the genome in human low-grade gliomas, and characterizing the function of genes commonly altered in low-grade gliomas (including genes called IDH1 and ATRX).
An ongoing research project is also looking at genetic mutations that give rise to gliomas by altering the epigenome in these cells. The epigenome consists of molecules that alter the expression of genes. This understanding could allow the development of new, more-effective therapies for these tumors.
Another study focuses on the development of molecularly targeted therapies for primary brain tumors. This research involves looking at brain tumor samples to determine which drugs might effectively target these tumors, testing the drugs in the lab, and developing clinical trials for patients.
Additional projects include studying the mechanisms that result in resistance of tumors to particular drugs (such as EGFR inhibitors), and exploring ways to target a specific pathway called the phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) pathway in brain tumors.