The Global Brain Cancer Alliance (TGBCA)

Brain cancer is a severe and deadly disease. Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) is the most common and lethal form of brain tumor in adults. There is no effective treatment option for GBM patients, especially for young patients. Less than 10% of GBM patients survive 5 years or longer after diagnosis, while the average life expectancy is only about 15 months.

Brain cancer knows no boundary – it can strike anyone, regardless of ethnicity or nationality.  To defeat this devastating disease also takes united efforts across institutions and countries. 

As a leading non-profit cancer research organization in the United States and worldwide, the National Foundation for Cancer Research is committed to building an international collaboration platform to defeat brain cancer on a global scale.

With joint forces from leading cancer research organizations around the world, NFCR and its global partners have recently established The Global Brain Cancer Alliance (TGBCA) – a global collaboration platform with participation from three leading countries of Australia, China and the US. The Alliance is committed to global innovation, focused collaboration and network mobilization across the board to defeat brain cancer on the global scale.  It is aimed to accelerate comprehensive understanding of brain cancer at cellular and molecular levels, engage the best minds possible to shape the direction of brain cancer research, and ultimately deliver more effective therapies for brain cancer patients.

As a founding partner of TGBCA, NFCR’s efforts are integral to the success of its mission: spearheading international multi-center adaptive clinical trials to develop new treatments; providing the brain cancer biospecimens necessary to understand this disease, via NFCR’s involvement with the Tissue Bank Consortium in Asia; and providing technical resources and capabilities for genomic dataset analysis, via the NFCR Center for Cancer Systems Informatics at MD Anderson.

Clinical trials are the crucial last steps in the long journey that leads to new diagnostic tools and treatments for cancer and other diseases.  However, brain cancer presents unique challenges for clinical trials. The incidence is fairly low (less than 2% of cancer cases worldwide), making patient enrollment a challenge. At the same time – particularly in the case of GBM – the rapid and devastating nature of the disease means that patients, quite simply, don’t have the luxury of waiting for conventional trials to be conducted.  

That is why a main focus of TGBCA is to unite global efforts to conduct “adaptive trials” that will allow GBM patients faster access to the latest research progress, even while the trial is in progress. This way, researchers can discontinue treatments that aren’t working and start patients on new treatments as soon as possible. The core advantage of adaptive trials is that they “fail fast, but correct even faster.”  Meanwhile, The Alliance’s global access to brain cancer patients will help ensure quick and sufficient patient enrollment to the trials. 

In addition to the clinical trials, TGBCA seeks to develop a deeper understanding of brain cancer; knowing its underlying causes could lead to new treatment strategies. However, the scarcity of high-quality brain cancer tissue samples presents a persistent obstacle. NFCR is increasing the number of tissues available for analysis by facilitating access to high-quality brain cancer tissue samples from the Tissue Bank Consortium of Asia, of which NFCR is a founding member. 

The NFCR Center for Cancer Systems Informatics, recently established at MD Anderson Cancer Center, will conduct genomic data analysis of patients’ tumor tissue specimens, providing crucial scientific information to help guide adaptive clinical trials as well as to accelerate discovery of new biomarkers for more effective diagnosis and treatment of brain cancer. 

As the first step of moving toward defeating brain cancer, the Alliance has planned to conduct international multi-center clinical trials for testing novel treatment strategies for GBM.  Phase I clinical trials will soon begin in several major cancer centers in both U.S. and China to investigate if a therapy that combines Target of Rapamycin kinase inhibitors (TORKi) with arsenic trioxide (ATO), a type of traditional Chinese medicine, could more effectively treat GBM patients.  The clinical trial protocol has already been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The trial will begin to recruit 40 GBM patients in the U.S. to participate.  Meanwhile, a protocol is currently being developed to conduct a similar phase I clinical trial in China, in parallel with the US trial.  Data from these trials will be compared to obtain more insights into the molecular features of GBM in patients from different geographic regions and genetic backgrounds.

The clinical trials planned and designed in the US and China are just the beginning of a global research effort on GBM initiated by TGBCA and NFCR will continue to play a critical role in this global collaboration initiative. By combining resources from top research institutions around the world, TGBCA is accelerating brain cancer research and its translation to patient-benefiting clinical applications. 

Additional Brain Cancer Research Programs Funded by NFCR

Besides TGBCA, NFCR also funds numerous important brain cancer research programs led by world renowned experts in various scientific disciplines. Together, we are moving forward towards defeating the deadly brain cancer and saving more lives.

Discovering Genes to Improve Treatment Efficacy 
Webster Cavenee, Ph.D.                                     
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, CA

Developing Smarter and Individualized Approaches to GBM Therapy. 
W.K. Alfred Yung, Ph.D.
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Preventing Resistance to Anti­angiogenic Therapy 
Rakesh Jain, Ph.D. 
Massachusetts General Hospital

Shutting Down Cancer’s Blood Supply 
Harold Dvorak, M.D. 
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Improving Surgical Removal of Brain Tumor through Molecular Imaging 
James P. Basilion, Ph.D. 
NFCR Center for Molecular Imaging at Case Western Reserve University