More than 600,000 people in the United States are living with a primary brain tumor – one that begins and stays in the brain – and over 60,000 adults and children will be diagnosed with a brain tumor this year. In recognition of May as Brain Tumor Awareness Month, we asked Dr. David Reardon, clinical director of the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’sCancerCenter, for the latest advances in brain tumor research and patient care.
Q. What are some of the challenges in treating brain tumors that you’re researching?
A. For one thing, glioblastomas – the most common and aggressive primary brain tumors – are genetically very complex. The tumor cells are driven by multiple abnormal gene pathways, so we’re starting to use combinations of targeted drugs in “cocktails” that can block several pathways at once.
In addition, glioblastoma cells are adept at developing resistance to chemotherapy. We can now measure some enzymes whose levels predict which patients are more likely to develop resistance to a given drug.