Brain Tumor Research

Starting in 2004, The Carlos Baldoceda Memorial Fund established an Annual Rally for Research, from which the proceeds are used to fund Brain Tumor Research.

Past Recipients

2009 Brain Tumor Research Award
Recipient: Markus Bredel, MD PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery, Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute.

Dr. Bredel and his team have demonstrated tumor suppressor activity for IκBα, and established decreased IκBα expression as a prognostic marker of poor patient outcome and posit that augmentation of IκBα activity may be therapeutically useful.

Dr. Bredel hypothesizes that IκBα plays an important role in gliomagenesis. It remains unknown whether loss of IκBα represents and early or late event during glioblastoma pathogenesis. The study of glioblastoma-derived stem cells could shed light on this question in that glioblastoma cells with stem cell-like features are thought to be the potential cell of origin of these tumors. In this proposal we intend to study the IκBα and EGFR genes and proteins in these cells and their interrelationship and, further, how the knockdown or expression of IκBα in these cells affects their behavior. Understanding the mechanism and origin of IκBα loss could impact future molecularly targeted strategies that aim at enhancing IκBα activity in these tumors.

2007 Brain Tumor Research Awards
Recipient: Loren D. Walensky, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Attending at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Dr. Walensky's research focuses on the Oligo2 transcription factor, that is expressed only in brain tissue and implicated in the pathogenesis and maintenance of malignant glioma. Oligo2 would seem to be an ideal target for an development of anti-glioma "smart drug" that can kill glioma cells without collateral damage to the bone marrow, and intestinal epithelia cause by conventional anti cancer drugs. However transcriptions factors such as Oligo2 are generally regarded as difficult targets for drug development because they are rather large proteins.

Dr. Walensky is working with a group of chemists at Harvard College to develop a new technology to successfully produced inhibitors of proteins such as Oligo2. The work proposed includes to generate stabalized Oligo2 compounds by inserting crosslinkable non-natural amino acid pairs into basic helix-loop-helix motif of Oligo2. His lab has shown that "hydrocarbon stapling" strategy yields structurally-reinforced helical peptides that are protease resistant, cell permeable, and capable of disrupting pathologic protein-protein interactions in virtro and in vivo.

2006 Brain Tumor Research Award
Recipient: Zamman Mirzadeh, MD, PhD, UCSF Medical Scientist Training Program

Mr. Mirzadeh works under Dr. Arturo Alvarez-Buylla. The research is best described by excerpts of Mr. Mirzadeh’s own proposal.

Recent advances in stem cell biology have opened new frontiers for understanding, curing, and one day, preventing cancer. Increasing evidence suggests that stem cells may be the cellular origin of cancer. Stem cells have long life spans and their continual division predisposes them to accumulating tumorigenic mutations. Further, mutations that disrupt pathways regulating self-renewal of somatic stem cells cause cancers. Finally, in both leukemia and glioblastoma (the most aggressive brain tumor), the demonstration of cancer stem cells, which are similar to somatic stem cells in their ability for unlimited self-renewal and multilineage differentiation, suggests not only a link between stem cells and cancer, but also a potential therapeutic target. The study of somatic stem cell behavior and the signaling pathways that regulate somatic stem cell self-renewal and differentiation are therefore critical in the search for better diagnostics and therapies for cancer.

This research is the first attempt to study the role of the Wnt/ß-catenin pathway in neural stem cells of the SVZ. By understanding how this signaling pathway regulates neural stem cells under normal conditions, we will gain valuable insight into how aberrant activation of this pathway may contribute to brain cancer. Dr. Alvarez-Buylla is one of the pioneers in adult neural stem cell research. His group identified astrocytes in the SVZ as adult neural stem cells. This project will provide a basic science understanding of neural stem cell behavior and more importantly yield insights into brain tumorigenesis.

This grant will be helpful in two ways. First, it will identify this project as an important pursuit in making the connections between brain tumors and neural stem cells. This is an exciting new field and studies of the normal regulation of neural stem cells and how this normal regulation may go awry offer a new frontier in understanding brain tumorigenesis.

2004 Brain Tumor Research Award
Recipient: Houman David Hemmati, UCLA-Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program

Our first ever Brain Tumor Research Award went to Houman Hemmati. After graduating from Stanford in 1995, Houman Hemmati was accepted into the UCLA - Caltech Medical Scientist Training program. As a student in the combined MD/PhD program, Houman has teamed up with Dr. Jorge Lazareff, director of pediatric neurosurgery at UCLA, Harley Kornblum, associate professor in the department of molecular and medical pharmacology and pediatrics at UCLA, and Marianne Bronner-Fraser, developmental biologist at Caltech.

The team's research is focused on cancerous stem cells and their relation to human brain tumors. They have found that brain tumor derived stem cells share similar properties with neural stem cells - they both give rise to neurons and glia, produce similar proportions of cell types, and self renew but differ in that they proliferate extensively and differentiate into abnormal cells that may contribute to tumorigenesis. These finding suggest that targeting tumor-derived stem cells is a promising approach to treating brain tumors. The research findings having been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and they have also been mentioned in Lancet.