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2017 Crystal Ball: The Neuro-Oncology Field Offers Predictions & Hopes For Advances In The New Year

In 2016, the neuro-oncology field made significant progress toward better treatments, and ultimately a cure, for brain tumors – from new research projects launching, to important novel scientific discoveries, as well as public policy and advocacy victories in Congress and at the White House.

So what should the brain tumor community hope for and expect, now, in 2017 ? We reached out to some of the leading experts in the brain tumor scientific and medical community to get their thoughts, predictions and hopes for the year (note: some responses have been edited slightly for clarity):

“In 2017, we will see a significant number of new therapeutic advances for the treatment of glioblastoma (GBM). At the heart of these new therapies will be a personalized approach based upon the individual’s genomic signature. This can employ innovative techniques such as immunotherapy and advanced methods to administer CAR-T cells. I do believe that this is going to be a breakthrough year for treating this disease.” – Dr. Mitch Berger, Professor and Chairman, Department of Neurological Surgery and Director, Brain Tumor Surgery Program and Director, Neurosurgical Research Centers, Brain Tumor Research Center, University of California, San Francisco

“More clinical trials of different immunotherapy approaches (including those that utilize biologics, such as genes and oncolytic viruses) will begin to provide ‘positive’ signals of an effect against GBM.” – Dr. Antonio Chiocca, Harvey W. Cushing Professor of Neurosurgery, Harvard Medical School; Neurosurgeon-in-Chief and Chairman, Department of Neurosurgery and Co-Director, Institute for the Neurosciences, Brigham and Women’s/Faulkner Hospital; Surgical Director, Center for Neuro-oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

“The critical new biologic understandings of many forms of childhood brain tumors – including high-grade gliomas, low-grade gliomas, medulloblastomas and ependymomas – although still partially incomplete, have opened exciting potential novel avenues of treatment. In the next 1-2 years, translation of these biological discoveries into more effective therapies promises to dramatically alter treatment approaches with resultant improvements in survival and quality of life for even the most recalcitrant childhood brain tumors. Molecular-targeted therapy and immunotherapy will soon become standard means of treatment for many brain tumors of childhood.” – Dr. Roger Packer, Senior Vice President, Center for Neuroscience and Behavioral Medicine and Director of the Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Institute and the Brain Tumor Institute of Children’s National Health System; Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at George Washington University; Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia

“In 2017, we expect to see individualized medicine approaches, matching brain tumor patients with targeted treatments based on the tumor’s molecular characteristics, to gain momentum as the first clinical results materialize and more opportunities are provided to our patients to participate in such breakthrough efforts. Examples include the ongoing Alliance trial in meningioma, the recently activated INSIGhT trial in GBM and the upcoming AGILE and craniopharyngioma studies. We also expect to see the maturation of important immunotherapy trials in glioma and the launching of innovative combinatorial immunotherapeutic strategies.” – Dr. Eva Galanis, Professor of Oncology and Chair, Department of Molecular Medicine, Mayo Clinic

“In 2017, in collaboration with brain tumor organizations such as the National Brain Tumor Society, we will see scientists use web- and smartphone-based tools along with social media to make research study enrollment and information sharing accessible to patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers throughout the world.” – Dr. Elizabeth B. Claus, Professor and Director of Medical Research at the Yale School of Public Health; Attending Neurosurgeon and Director of Stereotactic Radiosurgery in the Department of Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

“We will build in the community an atlas of human brain tumors at single-cell resolution, harnessing the power of single-cell genomics, which will shed new light on tumors histogenesis, classification, tumor heterogeneity and the composition of the tumor micro-environment. From a therapeutic standpoint, I am excited that we will be seeing the first results with different modalities of immunotherapies.” – Dr. Mario Suva, Assistant Professor of Pathology, Harvard Medical School; Assistant Molecular Pathologist, Massachusetts General Hospital; Merkin Institute Fellow at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

“For the coming year, I anticipate that our NBTS-funded GLASS Consortium will make available an unprecedented molecular dataset of how low-grade gliomas develop over time and during treatment. This dataset will provide an important foundation to improved understanding of critical weaknesses in the tumors, and how these cancer vulnerabilities can be exploited.– Dr. Roel Verhaak, Professor and Associate Director of Computational Biology, The Jackson Laboratory

“[Investigators in the Defeat GBM Researcher Collaborative] will build on the progress we are making through the extraordinary efforts of the Defeat GBM Program and hope that our collective work will led to better treatments and better outcomes for patients with GBM and their families.” – Dr. Paul Mischel, Head, Laboratory of Molecular Pathology, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Professor, University of California San Diego

“The era of immunotherapy for cancer patients has arrived. 2017 will be pivotal for defining its potential impact for brain cancer via results of ongoing initial trials coming to fruition, and more importantly, critical next steps being navigated to expand its benefit for our patients.” – Dr. David Reardon, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Clinical Director, Center for Neuro-Oncology, Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Momentum is on our side, and meaningful results are within our reach. From molecular discoveries, to potential new therapies moving forward in clinical trials, NBTS is inspired by the impact of 2016’s advancements and energized by the promise of pushing this work forward in 2017. 

We are where we are today, as the result of all of the tremendous past dedication; hard work; and support from scientific researchers, clinicians, patients, survivors, caregivers, advocates, volunteers, and fundraisers/donors. So, again, let’s continue to work together and keep this momentum going. We can do more together than we can do on our own – It’s Your Fight; It’s OUR Fight.

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