The Children's Hospital Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Lab
Hearing that your child has a brain tumor is terrifying news, yet each year, approximately 4,000 families have to hear this news. As the deadliest form of childhood cancer, brain tumors will claim the lives of nearly half the children they affect. Although cure rates for some brain tumors have increased over the last 20-30 years, survivors are often left with devastating cognitive and physical effects of their treatment. Because brain tumors are different in children than they are in adults, they require specific research and treatment options. This research is crucial for creating more survivors and eliminating the detrimental side effects of treatment.
The Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Fund provides critical funding to researchers working toward breakthrough treatment options for children with brain tumors. The majority of money we raise benefits the work of Dr. Jim Olson who collaborates with other researchers from Seattle Children’s Hospital. Funds raised have already contributed to the following important research:
- Tumor paint--A cancer treatment breakthrough--derived from the venom of a deathstalker scorpion--that will help surgeons distinguish cancerous tissue from normal tissue in the operating room. Laboratory studies have shown that tumor paint can precisely illuminate brain tumors as small as one millimeter in diameter.
- Clinical Trials--new treatment protocols for high-risk forms of medulloblastoma, the most common form of pediatric brain tumor.
- Mouse Models--“matched” mouse models and cell lines from individual patients. On the day of the patient’s surgery to remove the tumor--and within two hours of removal--Olson’s team transplants tumor tissue from the patient into mice engineered to grow the tumors in their brains. Simultaneously, the team creates cancer stem cell cultures with the patient’s tumor tissue and uses a process called high-throughput screening to find FDA-approved drugs appropriate for treatment based on the biology of the individual tumor. This approach identifies typically prescribed drugs that are ineffective and reveals alternatives that may be a surprise. Using the effective candidates, the team performs combination studies to look for instances in which two drugs work together more effectively than either drug alone.
- Institutional Trial-- a trial that enables children with recurrent brain tumors to benefit from the individualized testing process that’s currently under investigation in Olson’s lab. This trial will only be available to patients at Seattle Children’s but will enable the care of the most vulnerable children and enable the refinement of practices that will eventually help children on a national level.
- Drug Array Device--a breakthrough in personalizing cancer treatments for each patient. The drug array device makes it possible to test multiple drugs for efficacy prior to treatment. The device utilizes several needles that inject small quantities of drugs directly into a patient’s tumor. The specially engineered needles reflect a “soaker hose” design to ensure adequate penetration into the tumor tissue for accurate results. Finally, a unique tracking dye enables the team to identify the drugs that are working. Olson and his team have been testing the device in the laboratory during the past six years, and they will soon approach the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move the device into human clinical trials.
- Genome-Wide Analyses--a collection of data that might lead to better ways of diagnosing patients and improving outcomes. Olson and his team are conducting genome-wide analyses of the DNA and RNA in patients’ tumors to begin understanding tumors at the molecular level. This work will enable the categorization of tumors and optimize treatment strategies.
- Discovery of New Cancer Markers--ongoing examination of molecular features of tumor tissue from children treated for standard-risk medulloblastoma who fail therapy. Olson and his team have identified a potential marker that will be evaluated in an ongoing clinical trial. If validated, it will help identify children who need to be treated on the high-risk medulloblastoma protocol, potentially saving the lives of up to 16% of children across the country who die despite treatment for standard-risk medulloblastoma.
- Better Therapies for Brain Stem and High-Grade Gliomas--The research team is using high-throughput screening to identify medicines that may be more effective in treating these tumors--and therefore improve survival rates.
To learn more about the exciting research being done, please visit Dr. Olson’s website.