City of Hope. Photo via scic.coh.org/

City of Hope announced Wednesday that it has received a $12.8 million grant to support research into a possible cure for malignant brain tumors.

The grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine will support a research team led by Christine Brown, associate director of the T Cell Therapeutics Research Laboratory, and a clinical team headed by Dr. Behnam Badie, chief of neurosurgery at City of Hope.

Few effective therapies currently exist for malignant glioma, an aggressive brain cancer with a five-year survival rate of 5.5 percent.

“Brain tumors are one of our biggest challenges in oncology, which is why City of Hope is focusing our efforts on finding better therapies,” said Stephen J. Forman, director of the therapeutics research lab. “We have already made significant strides in finding more effective treatments, and City of Hope is extremely grateful that CIRM has recognized how crucial and urgent it is to support more research on malignant glioma and give patients better options and hope.”

City of Hope is the first and only cancer center treating patients with CAR-T cell therapy, which works by genetically reengineering a patient’s T cells — white blood cells in the immune system. The altered T cells are then infused into the patient to attack the cancer cells.

Malignant glioma is difficult to treat due to several factors. The brain’s anatomy, which is encased in the skull, has a tough membrane layer and the blood-brain barrier, a semi-permeable membrane, prevents easy access of potentially effective therapeutic drugs to the tumors.

Malignant gliomas are also highly invasive, making their surgical removal difficult. Furthermore, heterogeneous stem-cell like tumor cells are resistant to current therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation, which can lead to recurrence.

“City of Hope is working hard to take this therapy to the next level for patients by finding new delivery methods and honing on which method and combination works best,” said Brown, who is also the Heritage Provider Network Professor in Immunotherapy. “We urgently need more effective therapies for our patients with malignant gliomas, and we will not give up until we find them.”

–City News Service

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