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Adult Brain Tumors: The Latest Research and Treatment

Historically, brain tumors have been some of the most challenging types of cancers to treat. A protective barrier around the brain – called the “blood-brain barrier” – can prevent cancer treatments from reaching the tumor. Recently, increased interest in immunotherapy has given new hope to overcoming this challenge.

“We know the immune system can get into the brain to fight infections and inflammatory conditions,” says David Reardon, MD, Clinical Director in the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. “Our current research is moving forward to a level where we’re critically confirming that these immunotherapy drugs are getting into the brain and making a difference.”

Last year, Reardon joined Patrick Wen, MD, Director of the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, for a live video webchat on the latest research and treatments for adult brain tumors. During the chat, Dr. Reardon and Dr. Wen discussed a number of new treatment options currently being researched for patients, including advancements in genomics and precision medicine.

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Patrick Wen, MD, (left) and David Reardon, MD, are exploring new treatment options for adult brain tumors.

“One major area of advancement in all the research on cancer, including brain tumors, is the understanding of the molecular changes that drive tumors,” says Dr. Wen. “We’ve been able to characterize molecular changes in both high-grade and low-grade gliomas, and because of that, we can develop drugs to target the molecular drivers of these tumors.”

Combining these two new areas of research, Dr. Reardon says, is also showing promise for the future.

“We know some cancers respond to immunotherapy treatment and others don’t, and some patients respond while others don’t. We need to figure out why that is,” adds Dr. Reardon. “If we can understand what’s unique about the patient’s immune status as well as their tumor profile, we can find the right immunotherapy for that patient.”

This post was originally published on Insight, the blog of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. 

In this video, Jeffrey Golden, MD, Chair of the Department of Pathology at BWH, defines precision medicine and discusses three areas where BWH is applying precision medicine to improve patient care.