Jeffrey Greenfield, MD, PhD

Jeffrey Greenfield, MD, PhD

By Jeffrey Greenfield, MD, PhD
Director, Children’s Brain Tumor Project

We have some extremely exciting news to report this month: Yujie Huang, PhD, of our Children’s Brain Tumor Project laboratory, has been awarded a three-year, $400,000 grant from the Department of Defense. Dr. Huang was awarded the grant for a project called “Characterizing and Targeting Bone Marrow-Derived Inflammatory Cells in Driving the Malignancy and Progression of Childhood Astrocytic Brain Tumors.” Gliomatosis cerebri is one of the most difficult — if not the most difficult — to cure of all astrocytic brain tumors, so getting this project funded is a significant step forward for us.

News like this makes it more and more clear how critical the support of Elizabeth’s Hope is to us. Department of Defense grants are not easy to secure, and an award of this size required us to file an application with supporting data based on previous research. That data assures the DoD that its grant money is going to projects that are based on sound science and have good chance of success. How could our lab have done the foundational work, and generated the data, if not for you, our loyal supporters?

Even more exciting, some of the data used in support of this grant application was generated by Emma Vartanian, who joined the lab on a summer fellowship from the Saint Baldrick’s Foundation. As you may recall from our Spring 2013 newsletter, Emma’s project uses mouse models to study the effects of an inhibitor drug on gliomas, with the goal of preventing low-grade tumors from progressing into fatal ones. If we can learn how to stop bone marrow cells from signaling the distant tumor to grow, we may be able to keep low-grade gliomas from developing into high-grade tumors like gliomatosis cerebri.

Yujie Huang, PhD

Yujie Huang, PhD

Under Dr. Huang’s guidance this summer, Emma and the team initiated the transplant phase of the study and performed bone marrow transplants on more than 20 animals. Now those mice will be treated with an experimental inhibitor drug to test its ability to limit tumor growth. As the treatment progresses in Dr. Huang’s newly funded phase of this study, our research team will be able to analyze how the transplanted bone marrow-derived cells move and participate in tumor progression. We already have histological and radiographic data, in the form of brain tissue slides and MRI images, suggesting far better tumor outcomes and survival patterns in drug-treated transplant mice, as compared to untreated control animals. This is exciting stuff indeed.

I am so energized by how our work is all coming together. With Elizabeth’s Hope making our lab work possible, we gave St. Baldrick’s the confidence to award us the summer fellowship. With the addition of a summer fellow, we were able to generate the promising data that won us the Department of Defense grant. We are moving ahead, making progress, and growing fast — and we owe Elizabeth’s Hope our deepest gratitude.

Thank you so much for your continued faith in our lab, and for continuing to support us as we start new initiatives and open up new fronts in this ongoing battle against pediatric brain tumors.