Center for Cancer Research Receives Grant to Study Brain Tumors

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The Center for Cancer Research (CCR) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) has received a grant for $1,075,000 from the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity to fund a study on brain tumors.

The Center for Cancer Research (CCR) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) has received a grant for $1,075,000 from the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity to fund a study on brain tumors. The research is led by Lawrence Pfeffer, PhD, Muirhead Professor of Pathology and director of the CCR, and his co-investigator, Christopher Nosrat, DDS, PhD, professor of Dentistry and director of the CCR Oral Cancer Division. The grant will be used to develop their study titled, “Novel Methods in Brain Tumor Research.”

Spread over a two-year period, the grant will support advanced technologies used in brain cancer research. The equipment will help the CCR interdisciplinary team to improve the diagnosis of brain cancer and develop insights for treating the disease.

Primary brain tumors represent an important cause of cancer-related morbidity and mortality in the United States, occurring in one out of every 5,000 Americans. Half of all brain tumors, technically referred to as “gliomas,” start in the brain or spine from the glial cells, the most common cellular component of the brain. About 25 percent of tumors elsewhere in the body metastasize to the brain. For decades, the median survival time for patients with gliomas has remained at less than one year.

Drs. Pfeffer and Nosrat will assess whether activation of certain cellular components [nuclear factor kB (NF-kB) and STAT3 transcription factors] are key elements in the aggressive behavior of glioblastoma multiforma, the most malignant form of brain cancer. The study will examine the cancer stem-like cells and whether cancers that metastasize to specific brain regions are due to the tumor microenvironment*, representing differences in the cellular and vascular architecture of the brain. The research will be conducted utilizing confocal microscopy, a high-resolution optical imaging technique that can examine the different expressions of genes that are activated in a particular cancer type.

The U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity is the contracting element of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC). The agency provides support to the Command headquarters and its worldwide network of laboratories and medical logistics organizations. For more information, please visit http://www.usamraa.army.mil/index.cfm.

*tumor microenvironment — molecules, cells and blood vessels that surround and feed a tumor cell; the tumor microenvironment can change and affect the way a tumor spreads and grows