Cancer Types | Brain Cancer - National Foundation for Cancer Research

Brain Cancer

Brain Cancer

People of all ages are diagnosed with brain cancer, but there is more frequency among children and older adults. Brain cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in children (after leukemia).

Key Facts

  • Of the nearly 84,000 brain tumors diagnosed in the U.S. each year, approximately 29.7% are considered malignant – or cancerous.
  • An estimated  24,530 malignant tumors of the brain and spinal cord will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2021, with around 18,600 deaths expected to result from the diagnosis. 
  • Overall, the chance that a person will develop a malignant tumor of the brain or spinal cord in his or her lifetime is less than 1% (about 1 in 143 for men and 1 in 185 for women).
  • Survival rates vary widely depending on the type of tumor.
  • Glioblastoma (GBM) is the deadliest type of brain cancer, accounting for  48.6% of all malignant brain tumors and the five-year average survival rate is only 7.2% or less.
Source: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2021 and American Brain Tumor Association’s Brain Tumor Statistics

Signs and Symptoms

A symptom is a change in the body that a person can see and/or feel. A sign is a change that the doctor sees during an examination or on a laboratory test result. If you have any of the symptoms below, it does not mean you have cancer but you should see your doctor or health care professional so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty thinking and/or speaking
  • Changes in personality
  • Loss of balance
  • Change in vision including blurriness, double vision, abnormal eye movements, light sensitivity and loss of vision
  • Memory loss
  • Disorientation
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Tingling or stiffness on one side of the body
Source: National Brain Tumor Society 2021
Silver Brain Cancer Ribbon
24530
will be diagnosed in 2021
18600
deaths expected in 2021
1
% lifetime risk of brain cancer

Brain Cancer Research

In addition to specific projects listed below, genomics research is helping us attack brain cancers – and all types of cancer. NFCR has distinguished itself from other organizations by emphasizing long-term, transformative research and working to move people toward cancer genomics.

Dr. Rakesh Jain
Dr. Rakesh Jain

Dr. Rakesh Jain a renowned expert in understanding the tumor’s abnormal microenvironment, previously discovered that an imbalance of vessel growth in tumors results in leaky blood vessels (edema), lack of oxygen and immunosuppression. His research is now determining why a new revolutionary immunotherapy is not effective in GBM. In models of GBM, his team discovered the abnormal vessels limit the immune system’s T cells to kill tumors.

Treating GBM models with blood vessel growth inhibitors that he previously discovered, led to more normal tumor vessels and improved outcomes when combined with the immunotherapy. Dr. Jain’s research has high potential to improve treatment outcomes and increase survival in GBM patients.

gbm-education

GBM AGILE is an innovative clinical trial platform to accelerate the evaluation of new treatments for GBM. The uniquely designed platform has the ability to test multiple therapies at the same time against a common control (or standard of care). As a perpetual learning system, the trial quickly adds potentially promising new drugs and drops those that appear to be ineffective, giving patients hope for treatments that are best suited for their care.

NFCR is a founding member of GBM AGILE and a strategic partner with the Global Coalition for Adaptive Research (GCAR), the official sponsor of GBM AGILE. In 2021, more than 36 trial sites are open in the US and rapid expansion will provide nearly 40 sites in the US and Canada. Moreover, we are hopeful that GBM AGILE will serve as a model trial platform to be applied to other cancers—giving more patients hope.

Paul Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D.
Paul Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D.
Dr. Web Cavenee
Web Cavenee, Ph.D.

Dr. Paul Fisher discovered IL/24, an immune modulator gene that locates primary and metastatic tumor cells and causes them to commit ‘cell suicide’ but leaves healthy cells untouched. IL/24 has multiple anti-cancer effects including sensitizing tumor cells to radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Dr. Fisher is developing a IL/24 gene therapy that also includes a gene that fluoresces (lights up) when IL/24 locates and destroys tumor cells for a detection- and treatment-monitoring approach (known as theranostic). Another therapy combines IL/24 with a patient’s own immune T cells (adoptive cell therapy) to supercharge T cells to fight cancer even more effectively.

Dr. Fisher and Dr. Web Cavenee have focused lL/24 research for a new treatment for GBM. With support from NFCR, IL/24 gene therapy will advance soon to a Phase I clinical trial to provide GBM patients hope for a new effective treatment.

Dr. Fisher also discovered the gene, MDA-9/ Syntenin, that promotes the deadly spread (metastasis) of many cancers. Dr. Web Cavenee and he developed an innovative drug called PDZ1i to block the gene’s signals for metastasis. PDZ1i may be effective in treating numerous metastatic cancers. Radiation treatment can induce GBM cells to invade healthy tissue. PDZ1i treatment, in combination with radiation, results in profound survival benefits in pre-clinical models of GBM. With support from NFCR, the scientists are furthering their research on PDZ1i treatment towards clinical trials to benefit patients.

Cesare Spadoni, Ph.D.
Cesare Spadoni, Ph.D.

Brain and other cancers of the central nervous system account for 26% of childhood cancers with medulloblastoma as the most common type. Dr. Cesare Spadoni’s team is focused on developing a therapy with the ‘2Hit approach’ – a compound or combination of agents that attack two or more therapeutic targets in medulloblastoma cancer cells. The 2Hit approach aims to simultaneously increase effectiveness and reduce potential drug resistance. Ongoing research has identified 3 synergistic combinations that inhibit several targets. Next steps with bioinformatics (large sets of biological data) will identify a lead compound against two targets in medulloblastoma models. The team of scientists are hopeful a new treatment for this childhood cancer is on the horizon in the next two years.

W. K. Alfred Yung, M.D.
W. K. Alfred Yung, M.D.

NFCR-affiliated scientist Dr. W.K. Alfred Yung focused his research on drugs that target a gene called PI3K, which is a key factor in about 30% of GBM cases. To identify potential targets for drug development, his team collected glioma stem cells (GSCs) from GBM patients and developed a special panel of cell lines to investigate patterns of resistance to P13K inhibitors. Results from the P13K studies have shown GSCs contain increased levels of Wee-1, a protein that controls cell division and growth. Combination of a P13K inhibitor and a Wee-1 inhibitor resulted in greater inhibition of cell growth and the cancer cells were induced into cell suicide. Similar benefits with this combination treatment were observed in complex GBM tumor models. These findings reveal molecular targets and designs for combination therapies that could lead to new treatments for GBM patients.

Related Content

New Brain Scan Technology Can Improve Tumor Removal

Any illness or disease that impacts the brain is highly complex. None more so than brain tumors, which affect over 20,000 Americans each year. While surgeons have become more advanced in the removal of brain tumors, experts continue to face extreme challenges in ensuring all cancerous tissues are removed during surgery. That is, until now.  A recent study found a high-intensity focused ultrasound 2.5 times more effective at identifying cancerous tissue than surgeons alone and significantly better than traditional ultrasound. The newly identified ultrasound cancer treatment technique is referred to as shear wave elastography.  Shear wave elastography measures the stiffness and stretch within the tissue, with vibrations moving faster through stiffer tissue. Brain tumors tend to be stiffer than normal brain tissue, allowing the new method to map suspicious areas of particular stiffness. In the study, researchers compared this high-intensity focused ultrasound to the standard ultrasound cancer treatment and a surgeon’s opinion regarding which tissues to remove.  The study used these three different techniques on a total of 26 patients. All of the techniques were compared with gold-standard MRI scans after the surgery – which while effective, are exceptionally time-consuming and expensive.  While the shear wave elastography ultrasound cancer treatment proved to be the most effective with 94% sensitivity (compared to 73% for the standard ultrasound tumor removal and 36% for the surgeon’s opinion), researchers concluded that the shear wave scans may yield more false positives than surgeons.  Ensuring all of a brain tumor is removed without damaging healthy tissue is a major challenge in brain surgery. This new type of scan can greatly increase a surgeon’s confidence that no cancer tissue is left behind in surgery.  The use of this unique ultrasound in cancer treatment makes a significant stride towards improving the health outlook for brain cancer patients. The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is also providing new hope in the realm of brain cancer through its partnership with Global Coalition for Adaptive Research (GCAR). GCAR is a nonprofit organization comprised of some of the world’s foremost physicians, clinical researchers and investigators united in expediting the discovery and development of cures for patients with rare and deadly diseases. GCAR is the official sponsor of GBM AGILE, an adaptive platform trial for patients with glioblastoma (GBM) – the most common and deadliest of malignant primary brain tumors. The GBM AGILE has been developed with a revolutionary approach to defeating GBM, with the goal of enabling faster and more efficient testing of new agents and combination therapies, better identification of predictive and prognostic biomarkers and delivery of more effective treatments to all glioblastoma patients. GBM AGILE is an innovative approach for treating brain cancer, providing new hope where little existed before. NFCR continues to fund innovative researchers paving the way to finding new screening methods, treatments, and cures for all cancers, including brain cancer. To learn more about the progress that NFCR-funded scientists are making in the way of brain cancer, visit the NFCR Brain Cancer page.  Additional Reads You May Enjoy: “Pink Drink” to Aid Brain Tumor Treatment Treating Brain Cancer: What You Need to Know GBM AGILE – Changing the Way We Fight Brain Cancer Stay connected with us! […]

Research Highlight: Preventing Breast Cancer Brain Metastasis

National Foundation for Cancer Research funded researcher Dr. Daniel A Haber recently unearthed an exciting discovery that may add years to the lives of late-stage breast cancer patients. Dr. Haber is fascinated by understanding drug resistance on a deeper level by studying individual tumor cells in patients’ blood. In December 2020, Dr. Haber and his team shared their exciting findings on how brain metastasis, or the spread of cancer to the brain, may be prevented. Brain metastases occur in about 10% of all patients with cancer and in as many as a third of women with advanced metastatic breast cancer. Though experts have made great strides in suppressing the spread of cancer, there is still little known about the cellular pathways that enable cancer cells to selectively grow in the brain; that is, until Dr. Haber and his research team identified a signaling pathway which appeared significantly more active in brain metastases from breast cancer. “We were looking for what properties of some breast cancer cells made it possible for the cells to grow in the brain, which is a rare but often deadly complication of breast cancer,” Dr. Haber explained. “We weren’t sure what we would find. In a way that’s what makes the discovery process so exciting.” The research commenced approximately 10 years ago while investigating circulating tumor cells (CTCs). As their research progressed, the team homed in on a specific signaling pathway named HIF1A. Using cells from women with breast cancer, the team observed how these cells acted in animal models. It was discovered that if HIF1A was suppressed, the rate of proliferation (or rapid growth) was reduced. Simply put, blocking the HIF1A signaling pathway could reduce the rate of brain metastasis or even prevent it all together. “HIF1A is not specific to brain metastasis, since it’s a very broadly activated pathway in many cancers,” Dr. Haber began. “However, it appears to be more active in brain metastases from breast cancer than in primary breast cancers, and that may help explain what makes these metastases to the brain so unique and so difficult to treat.” The pathway identified in this research is already well known in the cancer world, however its special relevance to the brain was not known until now. Theoretically, a drug could be developed to suppress HIF1A and, in turn, prevent the spread of cancer. While a very promising discovery, Dr. Haber explains that there is far more work to be done. “There are a few HIF1A suppressing drugs now being tested in clinical trials for other indications,” Dr. Haber said, “However, we would have to expand this to multiple different models and systems before we could contemplate an intervention.” In regard to the length of time it takes to have a discovery such as this transitioned to mainstream treatment, Dr. Haber explains that it “depends on the discovery, its potential applications and some ‘luck’.” While the process from discovery to clinical treatment is getting faster all the time, it is likely going to take five to ten years before this finding is implemented into treatment. As for Dr. Haber, he has already planned plenty of work […]

DelMar Pharmaceuticals Receives $500,000 Loan from the National Brain Tumor Society and National Foundation for Cancer Research to Support VAL-083’s Participation in a Pivotal Study for Glioblastoma Sponsored by the Global Coalition for Adaptive Research

SAN DIEGO, June 24, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — DelMar Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq: DMPI) (“DelMar” or the “Company”), a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of new solid tumor cancer therapies announced today it has received a $500,000 loan from the National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) and the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) to support VAL-083’s preparation for participation in the Global Coalition for Adaptive Research’s (GCAR) sponsored trial, Glioblastoma (GBM) Adaptive Global Innovative Learning Environment (GBM AGILE) study. On June 4, 2020, the Company announced that VAL-083, its “first-in-class,” small-molecule chemotherapeutic with a novel mechanism of action, was selected by GCAR as the third investigational therapy to participate in GBM AGILE, in which the compounds will be simultaneously evaluated across multiple international trial sites of which 25 are currently activated. DelMar intends to utilize GBM AGILE, which is an adaptive registration clinical trial, to serve as the basis for VAL-083’s new drug application submission and registration. “It means a great deal to all of us involved with VAL-083’s development to receive support from the National Brain Tumor Society and the National Foundation for Cancer Research as these organizations are two of the leading advocacy and funding partners for GBM AGILE,” commented Saiid Zarrabian, Chief Executive Officer of DelMar Pharmaceuticals. “This funding is an important milestone as it enables us to accelerate VAL-083’s participation in GBM AGILE, which is expected to reduce VAL-083’s pivotal trial completion and regulatory submission timeline by up to 18 months.” GBM AGILE is an international effort in newly diagnosed and recurrent GBM, utilizing an FDA approved master protocol to evaluate multiple therapies against a common control arm. As an approved registrational study, positive results from the VAL-083 arm of GBM AGILE are expected to be utilized to file for FDA approval. This study employs a cost-efficient, seamless phase 2/3 adaptive trial design with a Stage 1 learning and adapting phase and a Stage 2 expansion and confirmation phase. The effort is led by top-tier key opinion leaders in the GBM field and has the collective support of an international group of more than 130 clinicians, researchers, biostatisticians, imagers, pathologists, leaders from government and industry, and patient advocates. GCAR, a 501(c)(3) organization, is the international trial sponsor, and provides financial support for the program infrastructure, as well as trial oversight and management.  Comprised of the world’s foremost clinical, translational, and basic science investigators, GCAR strives to support the development of novel treatments to fight against rare and deadly diseases like GBM where patient prognosis is poor and treatment options are limited. “We are supporting the inclusion of VAL-083 in GBM AGILE adaptive clinical trial platform as it is consistent with our mission to support research for, and ultimately enable delivery of, effective treatments to patients with brain tumors. We are particularly pleased to lend our support to VAL-083 given the significant unmet medical need that exists for patients with GBM,” commented David Arons, Chief Executive Officer of the National Brain Tumor Society. Sujuan Ba, President & Chief Executive Officer of the National Foundation for Cancer Research added, “We are dedicated to facilitating the development of therapies for all cancers, and are pleased […]