Where We’re Heading… on the Road to Curing Brain Cancer

By admin
July 04, 2016

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Well-Being is proud to be a sponsor for the upcoming Metro Jackson Head for the Cure 5K Run/Walk event that is slated for August 13th. As a supporter of the event, which benefits brain cancer research, we thought it was important to look at how the treatment of brain cancer is evolving and how current research is inspiring new hope in the fight against this deadly cancer killer.

Well-Being spoke with Dr. Mark Anderson, Neuro-Oncologist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, about what is new in the diagnosis and treatment of brain cancer.

First, Dr. Anderson explained how imaging technologies are providing better insights into the makeup of the tumors.

“Traditionally, some imaging tools such as PET scans have not given us the clarity of images that we would like,” notes Dr. Anderson. “However, using new tracers, we are better able to identify chemicals that are found in the tumors.”

medical laboratory, scientist hands using microscope for chemistry samples“We are looking more closely at the biology and genetic makeup of a tumor to understand it at the molecular level, rather than just relying on how the tumor looks. This is allowing us to find more individualized treatments,” Anderson adds.

The first step in treating brain cancer is surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. One of the newest tools is the OPTUNE system by Novacure, which is used in the treatment of a common brain cancer called glioblastoma. Unlike radiation, OPTUNE creates low-intensity electric fields that slow or stop glioblastoma cancer cells from dividing and may cause some of them to die. Other important milestones in the treatment of brain cancer came with the approvals by the FDA of two drugs, Avastin® and Temozolomide®, used for adult patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma.

According to Anderson, recent advances in immunotherapy also represent important steps in the quest for more effective cancer treatment in general, and hold promise for brain cancer as well.

Brain tumor, meningioma, CT“Researchers are pursuing the development of vaccines and genetically engineered viruses to attack brain tumor cells, but these are still in experimental stages of development,” continues Anderson. “There are several clinical trials underway using these new therapies to treat brain tumors, but they need to go through years of additional studies before we know if these treatments will be the next breakthough.”

One of the most frustrating factors in the fight against brain cancer is that there are no clear risk factors other than receiving previous doses of brain radiation. We have identified some genetic syndromes, but they are rare. The University of Mississippi Medical School is part of a larger study among several southeast universities that is tracking the genomes of patients with brain cancer.

While we hear a lot in the media about whether there are links between cell phone use and brain cancer, Dr. Anderson warns that even the results of one recent, widely reported study were inconclusive and the methodology of the study has been called into question by some leading experts in the field.

“The truth is, we still don’t know what causes brain cancer,” Anderson adds. “It is definitely on the rise, but there are so many variables, both environmental and biological, involved. Here at UMMC we have a group of translational scientists including our neuro-oncology team looking at advanced treatments. Maybe someday we will find the answer as to why, but for now, we’re thankful for each new tool that is developed to help us treat brain cancer.”

Mark Daniel Anderson, M.D., Assistant Professor at UMMC and Mississippi’s only Neuro-Oncologist certified by the United Council of Neurologic Subspecialties, received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham. He completed his Internal Medicine Internship and Neurology Residency at Vanderbilt University and a Fellowship in Neuro-Oncology at the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

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Head for the Cure, Mississippi!

The first Head for the Cure 5K was held in Kansas City, MO, in 2003. Mississippi’s first HFTC event was held in 2015. Since its initial event some 13 years ago, more than 80,000 people have joined Head for the Cure’s efforts to defeat brain cancer step by step! In addition, over 25,000 donors have supported 5K participants. Together they have raised in excess of $6 million!

The primary beneficiary is the Brain Tumor Trials Collaborative (BTTC), a group of highly respected and dedicated doctors in a network of renowned medical centers. Led by the Center for Cancer Research, NCI (National Cancer Institute) serves as the lead institution and provides the administrative infrastructure, clinical database and oversight for the collaborative. The BTTC has grown to more than 23 member institutions and has experienced unparalleled advancements in the research of alternative treatments of malignant brain tumors. Research studies, also known as clinical trials, are being conducted to learn of promising advances to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatments that are safe and effective.

To contribute or to register for Mississippi’s second annual Head for the Cure 5K Run/Walk and Kid’s Fun Run, at the Madison Healthplex Performance Center August 13th, visit www.headforthecure.org.

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