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

The World’s First Oncolytic Virus Drug was Launched to Treat Malignant Brain Tumor GBM

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive malignant brain tumor in adults, with a median survival of only about ten months. Unlike low-grade gliomas (grades I and II), which grow slowly, high-grade gliomas (grades III and IV) grow much faster and can spread to other parts of the brain, resulting in a patient’s death. GBM is the highest grade brain tumor (grade IV) with a very poor prognosis. The standard treatment for GBM includes surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. However, these limited treatment approaches cannot control the tumor progress, and the rate of brain tumor recurrence is high, resulting in low overall survival (OS) in most patients.   Oncolytic Virus Therapy  Oncolytic virus therapy represents a new promising cancer immunotherapy approach that utilizes genetically modified viruses to infect and kill cancer cells. The viruses are modified to selectively infect and lyse cancer cells through genetic engineering processes while leaving normal cells unharmed. The genetic modification of the viruses also grants them the ability to produce immune-boosting molecules or initiate anti-cancer immunity through multiple mechanisms of the patient’s own immune system.  The First Oncolytic Virus Therapy for GBM  Recently, the world’s first oncolytic virus-based immunotherapy (Teserpaturev) was approved in Japan. Teserpaturev offers a new option for treating GBM and brings new hope to thousands of patients suffering from this malignant brain tumor.  Teserpaturev is a genetically engineered herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). The uniqueness of this new oncolytic virus-based drug is that it not only has strong killing power to brain tumor cells that the virus entered into, but it is also able to kill the tumor cells that have spread to other parts of the brain. This process happens by inducing systemic antitumor immunity of a patient’s own immune system.  In June 2021, Teserpaturev received a conditional and time-limited marketing approval in Japan to treat malignant glioma based on a Japanese phase 2 clinical trial in patients with GBM. The clinical trial results showed that 92% of patients who received Teserpaturev immunotherapy treatment were still alive after one year. This percent is considerably higher than the typical 15% one-year survival rate in this group of patients receiving standard late-stage brain tumor treatments.  Bottom Line Because Teserpaturev is currently under conditional and time-limited marketing approval in Japan, this novel immunotherapy for GBM is only available at specified hospitals in Japan. We hope international multi-center clinical trials on this innovative drug can take place in the near future. Hopefully, the novel therapy can be made available to GBM patients around the world.  Stay up-to-date with the latest information on new drug development. Receive our monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips, and more; sign up here.  Additional Reads You May Also Enjoy: Treating Brain Cancer: What You Need to Know New Brain Scan Technology Can Improve Tumor Removal GBM AGILE – Changing the Way We Fight Brain Cancer References Daiichi Sankyo introduces Delytact in Japan to treat malignant glioma. com, November 2, 2021.  http://www.pharmabiz.com/NewsDetails.aspx?aid=143694&sid=2 First launch for Daiichi Sankyo’s oncolytic virus Delytact in Japan. Pharmaphorum, November 1, 2021.  https://pharmaphorum.com/news/first-launch-for-daiichi-sankyos-oncolytic-virus-delytact-in-japan/

Newly Diagnosed Brain Tumor Patients Should Consult Their Doctors Before Starting the Preventive Anti-Epileptic Treatment

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! […]