Winter 2006

UCSF Establishes Pediatric Brain Tumor Institute

UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and the Department of Neurological Surgery have established a Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Institute, deepening a commitment to increase the understanding of brain tumors in young patients. The institute hopes to build on the existing strengths at UCSF by bringing together programs and specialists.

As one of 10 members of the nationwide Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium, administered by the National Cancer Institute, the UCSF program already provides the most advanced therapies available and offers patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials of promising new medications and treatments.

The formation of the institute complements other efforts that UCSF is making on the clinical side, says neurological surgeon Nalin Gupta, M.D., Ph.D. UCSF has a longstanding, multispecialty tumor board that provides broad and deep consultations on pediatric brain tumor cases. The department also is in the process of forming a clinical consortium with five other Bay Area medical centers to target pediatric brain tumors.

Many of the tools that physicians use to fight pediatric brain tumors have improved tremendously in the last five to 10 years, Gupta says. "In the past, there has been a tendency to use nondirected treatments, but we are getting a much better capability of zeroing in on brain tumor tissue."

Imaging technology has been one of the areas that have shown improvement. Developments like functional MRI and MRI spectroscopy give physicians a much more accurate picture of tumor growth and metabolism, while differentiating between the tumor and edema or treatment effect. The most powerful imaging capability may ultimately lie in MRI spectroscopy and its ability to spot biochemical changes in tumor metabolism, Gupta says. This can be helpful in choosing appropriate therapeutic agents and can provide early evidence of whether or not those agents are working.

The future will also likely bring more therapeutic agents that are much more biologically directed at certain features of specific types of tumors. "One of the most dramatic stories of the last five years has probably been the rise of biologically directed therapies and the use of novel small molecules as tumor inhibitors," says cancer researcher Michael Prados, M.D.

For more information, contact Dr. Nalin Gupta at (415) 353-7800.

Related Information

News Releases

Vaccine for Brain Tumor Promising in Study
A vaccine for treating a recurrent brain cancer, called glioma, has shown promising preliminary results in a clinical trial at UCSF Medical Center.