Research Clinical Trials for Treating Brain Tumors
The Neuro-Oncology Program at California Pacific was initiated in 2003 by Brian Andrews, M.D. to achieve a multidisciplinary treatment approach for patients with brain and spinal tumors. Dr. Andrews and Peter Weber, M.D., another neurosurgeon who treats brain tumor patients, realized that the complexity of these patients requires that their cases be managed by a team approach, which includes neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists and quality-of-life ancillary support experts. From a small monthly “Tumor Board,” the Neuro-Oncology Program has blossomed into a very well-attended monthly meeting with experts from all areas related to brain and spinal tumors. In such a setting, each patient presented can obtain the best consensus from world-renowned experts. This group effort has led to the highest quality of care achievable.
Charles Cobbs, M.D.
In 2005, Charles Cobbs, M.D. joined Dr. Andrews in California Pacific’s Neuro-Oncology effort. Dr. Cobbs’ mission has been to extend the excellent clinical program initiated by Drs. Andrews and Weber, and to develop a world-class translational research and clinical trials program. In 2007, Dr. Cobbs and his chief research scientist, Liliana Soroceanu, M.D. Ph.D. were awarded a California Pacific Medical Center Clinical Research Excellence award to develop a brain tumor and normal brain tissue bank. Drs. Cobbs and Soroceanu now have an Internal Review Board-approved comprehensive effort in place where every brain tumor patient is asked for consent to tissue preservation for research study purposes. Given the great need in the scientific community for primary cells from human tumors, this tissue bank will be one of the first in the world to have frozen specimens archived from human brain tumor primary cells. Clinical, epidemiological, and follow-up data from the patients who donate tumor tissues will be kept anonymously so that in the future, investigators can use these tumor tissues for scientific projects. Ongoing cancer stem cell studies are in place and collaboration with OncoMed, a biotech company, to develop cancer prevention strategies has been established.
Brain Tumor Primary Tissue Bank
In addition to the efforts at developing one of the first brain tumor primary cell tissue banks in the world, Drs. Cobbs and Soroceanu are pursuing a novel avenue of potential therapy for brain tumor patients based on original discoveries made by this team. In 2002, Dr. Cobbs’ team discovered that a common human virus, cytomegalovirus (CMV), was very strongly associated with malignant brain tumors. These findings were subsequently confirmed by researchers at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and by investigators at Duke University Medical CenterOpens new window. Dr. Cobbs’ group has subsequently published recent articles in the journals Cancer Research and Nature that provide evidence that CMV may directly promote the malignant features of brain tumors. Based on this original discovery, both the Karolinska and Duke investigators have initiated clinical trials aimed at attacking brain tumors by targeting the CMV virus. Preliminary results from the Duke study, in which CMV is targeted by a vaccine approach in patients with grade IV glioblastomas, indicates a dramatic improvement in the time of tumor recurrence and survival in patients with these highly malignant tumors. In Stockholm, Sweden, the Karolinska Institute researchers are treating brain tumor patients with a drug (Valcyte) that specifically targets the CMV virus, and may impact tumor growth.
Drs. Cobbs and Soroceanu plan to make California Pacific the first center in the United States to host a clinical trial for patients with brain tumors based on the use of Valcyte. Valcyte has minimus side-effects and if the results of the Karolinska study indicate that Valcyte can improve the survival of brain tumor patients, the drug may be given to thousands of patients worldwide.