Allow me to introduce key players in the research you are so generously funding.Dr. Mark Souweidane is the director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Weill Cornell Pediatric Brain and Spine Center. Dr. Souweidane and I are a unique team — as my laboratory concentrates on identifying the genetic commonalities in tumors, Dr. Souweidane’s focus is on searching for optimal ways to deliver cancer-fighting agents into parts of the brain that are surgically inaccessible. Dr. Souweidane recently treated the first patient in a ground-breaking new clinical trial testing the safety of convection-enhanced delivery (CED) of a radioactive agent against DIPG, another rare and inoperable childhood brain tumor. That patient, a beautiful four-year-old girl, is currently doing well three months after her treatment.
My current laboratory staff consists of Yujie Huang, PhD; Karen Badal, MD; Prajwal Rajappa, MD; Caitlin Hoffman, MD; and Heather McCrea, MD, PhD. In addition to their invaluable contributions to the gliomatosis project and Elizabeth’s Hope, they are each working on ground-breaking research in various pediatric brain tumors:Dr. Huang studies the role of inflammatory immune system cells that are found in the bone marrow. These cells travel to brain tumors to help set up the environment that supports their malignant growth. He recently discovered a new pathway that helps tumors create new blood vessels. Blocking this pathway could play a role in treating almost every type of malignant pediatric brain tumor.
Dr. Badal, in conjunction with Dr. Hoffman, studies a pediatric brain tumor called medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor of childhood. Together they have identified a new drug, commonly used for blood diseases, that can stop the spread of this tumor in mice.
Dr. Rajappa leads our division studying an exciting new avenue of research called exosome biology. He has identified small particles that brain cancer cells actually shed — previously thought to be debris — which carry important genetic material throughout the body.
They’re all part of the Weill Cornell Pediatric Brain and Spine Center’s research team and the Children’s Brain Tumor Project.
All of our lab members work across the translational spectrum — from the moment tumors are removed in the operating room, to their preservation in the lab, to the acquisition of blood samples from all of our thriving patients, there is a continuous hum of energy between the hospital and laboratory.
In the coming months I’ll continue to highlight specific projects, spotlight lab members, and report back to you on the work our lab is doing, thanks to your dedicated support.