Tumor Microenvironment Network

The Tumor Microenvironment Network (TMEN) is a multidisciplinary research initiative bringing together scientists from Memorial Sloan Kettering and Weill Cornell Medical College. Our research is focused on investigating how primary and metastatic brain tumors interact with their microenvironment — the noncancerous cells, molecules, and blood vessels that surround a tumor — and on exploring how such interactions might promote cancer growth and progression, or affect a tumor’s sensitivity to treatment.

Our investigators use a combination of engineered mouse models, human surgery samples, and cell lines to delineate the mechanisms by which brain tumor cells communicate with different TMEN components. We aim to further the understanding of the role of the tumor microenvironment in cancer initiation, progression, and metastasis.

Created with a $6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, the TMEN network provides extraordinary opportunities for basic science discovery that could accelerate treatment innovations for primary and metastatic brain cancers, which are often incurable with currently available therapies.

Highly aggressive brain cancers that often become resistant to treatment include a primary brain tumor called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and metastatic cancers that have spread to the brain from other parts of the body. It is believed that vascular and perivascular stromal cells (noncancerous cells that exist in or adjacent to tumor-infiltrating blood vessels) play a role in the development of drug resistance in both primary and metastatic brain tumors. However, the mechanisms by which these cell types interact with tumors and contribute to resistance are not well understood.

Our goal is to investigate how different TMEN components – including the vasculature and the stromal cells of the perivascular niche – might contribute to the growth, progression, and therapy resistance of primary and metastatic brain tumors.