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Brains against brain tumors

Experts from several scientific fields join forces to accelerate fight against brain cancer

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To better meet the challenges of treating brain cancer, Upstate‘s Precision Neuro-Oncology Program pools the expertise of the best minds in a variety of scientific fields.

The newly formed Brain Tumor Research Group involves neurosurgeons, pathologists and neuroscientists from Upstate Medical University and biomedical scientists from Cornell University to analyze and test brain tumors with the goal of increasing the number of available brain cancer treatments.

Working as a multidisciplinary team, the experts store tumor samples in a unique tumor bank, perform molecular profiling and biological assays and work toward predicting the progression of brain cancer and its outcome. In addition, the group works to develop clinical trials that could lead to new cancer treatments and possibly to applications for other diseases as well.

This team draws on a special resource -- Upstate‘s brain tumor cell bank, which has been maintained by the department of neurosurgery for more than 25 years to support its research. Hundreds of tissue samples from brain tumors are carefully stored in a deep freeze at the Neuroscience Research Building. These samples can be thawed, cultured and studied to help understand how tumors behave.

The spirit of collaboration behind this project has already been established. One of Upstate‘s newest faculty members, Mariano Viapiano, PhD, came from Harvard University to continue working with Upstate faculty members he had long associated with, including neuroscience professor Russell “Rick” Matthews, PhD, and pathologist Robert Corona Jr., DO, and now neurosurgeon Lawrence Chin, MD.

This collaboration integrates the work done at Upstate‘s Neuroscience Research Building with that taking place in the Central New York Biotechnology Accelerator, the Cancer Center, the Cord Blood Bank and Molecular Genetics Laboratory and the laboratory of Charles Danko, PhD, at Cornell University‘s Baker Institute.

Working together, neurosurgeons can become involved in basic science, neuroscience researchers can pursue topics in oncology, and pathologists can help develop molecular diagnostics.

The aim is to create new brain cancer treatments derived from the intensive research and analysis of the tumor samples. The program hopes to become a national reference institution for precision diagnostics and personalized treatment of brain cancer.

Cancer Care magazine spring 2017This article appears in the spring 2017 issue of Cancer Care magazine.