Historically, brain tumors have been some of the most challenging types of cancers. 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 getting through this barrier.
“We know the immune system can get into the brain to fight infections and inflammatory conditions,” says David Reardon, MD, clinical director of Dana-Farber’s Center for Neuro-Oncology. “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.”
Reardon recently joined Patrick Wen, MD, director of Dana-Farber’s Center for Neuro-Oncology, for a live video webchat on the latest research and treatments for adult brain tumors. During the chat, Reardon and Wen discussed a number of new treatment options currently being researched for patients, including advancements in genomics and precision medicine.
“One major area of advancement in all cancer, including brain tumors, is the understanding of the molecular changes that drive tumors,” says 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, Reardon says, is also showing promise for the future.
“With immunotherapies, we know some cancers respond and others don’t, and some patients respond while others don’t, and we need to figure out why that is,” Reardon adds. “If we can understand what’s unique and different about the patient’s immune status as well as their tumor profile, we can find the right immunotherapy for that patient.”
Watch the webchat video below to learn more about these new treatments and other research advances for adult brain tumors: