Defeat Pediatric Brain Tumors Research Collaborative: Integrated Initiatives

Our strategic initiatives and funded programs aim to improve an understanding of brain tumors to transform research findings into new and more effective treatments, as quickly as possible. To achieve these goals, we also foster collaboration with leaders across academia, government, and the private sector to drive systemic change within all facets of the drug discovery and development landscape.



Defeat Pediatric Brain Tumors is a powerful, unique global research and drug discovery program which aims to improve clinical outcomes for pediatric brain tumor patients and enable the development of the first-ever standard of care for treating pediatric high-grade gliomas – the most lethal of pediatric cancers. The program infrastructure, researchers, and four inter-related “cores” that make up the program have been deployed and are in research mode. 

The program is an NBTS-led research collaborative designed to accelerate research through a platform that fosters collaboration as well as data, information and materials sharing. The platform consists of four cores that work on critical areas of research simultaneously and in concert with one another to encourage sharing of findings and new discoveries in real time – to aim toward a cure. 

Funding will support work across four key areas of scientific focus, known as cores: 

  • Discovery Core (Molecular Diagnostics and Target Discovery): Catalyze the process of discovery to build off of new advances in genetic sequencing and expression.
  • Biomarker Core (Identification & Validation): Identify and validate biomarkers for pediatric brain tumors across various modalities, including tumor tissue, liquid biopsy (plasma and other body fluids), imaging, etc.
  • Preclinical Modeling & Drug Screening Core: Develop the critically needed, relevant mouse models and translate molecular and drug discovery in animal models into targeted therapies that improve patient survival and outcomes.
  • Precision Medicine Clinical Trials: A key goal resulting from the work of the Defeat Pediatric Brain Tumors research cores, is to develop pre-clinical data that helps prepare for new precision medicine clinical trials to evaluate cutting-edge treatments. 

Pediatric brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related death among children and young adults ages 19 and younger, surpassing leukemia. Over the past decades, little progress has been made in the treatment of pediatric brain tumors, while tremendous advances have been made across the rest of the pediatric cancer spectrum, as new discoveries in the lab have led to new treatments in the field that have significantly improved survival.

For example, the most common form of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, was generally diagnosed as fatal 50 years ago; today, cure rates for the disease reach close to ninety percent.

However, for the 4,600 children diagnosed annually with a brain tumor, the scientific needle has barely moved, with only 25% of children suffering from a malignant brain tumor surviving five years – rates that trend on par with where they were nearly forty years ago.

But, never before in the history of mankind’s battle with cancer has so much progress been made. Critical findings in recent years – including many funded by the National Brain Tumor Society – have positioned the field of pediatric brain tumors to enter a new era in treatment and survival. Among the most transformational of these findings was clear evidence that pediatric high-grade gliomas are biologically and molecularly distinct and separate from their adult counter-parts. These findings allow scientists to break from the norm of the past decades, and catalyze them to develop pediatric-specific treatments that finally move us away from using adult therapies on children, a strategy that simply has not worked.

NBTS has built a track-record of success, playing a critical role in funding many of the field’s crucial findings that have brought us to the threshold of a new era in 2016. From that strong foundation, we have launched the Defeat Pediatric Brain Tumors Research Collaborative program.

The structure of Defeat Pediatric Brain Tumors is what makes it unique. The research program is based on NBTS’ “Defeat” program model, which is a new business approach to science that facilitates collaborations and exchanges of real-time data to accelerate progress in R&D efforts and transform the way brain tumor research is funded and conducted. This approach is completely unique in its relationship to traditional funding of research by nonprofits, which typically rely on a standard RFA grant-making process, where checks are distributed to individual labs that apply for grant funding, but the research isn’t managed and collaboration isn’t fostered.

The Defeat Pediatric Brain Tumors approach is beneficial because it:

  • Was not built in a vacuum: the effort is based on inputfrom all key stakeholders – researchers, industry,government, and nonprofits/advocates – to determinethe real barriers to getting to more new treatments
  • Is the only effort in this field that is ambitious enoughto tackle the challenges via an end-to-end approach,from basic science to the clinic, including powerfulinternational collaborations and integrating withleading clinical trial consortium, the Pacific PediatricNeuro-Oncology Consortium (PNOC)
  • De-risks early entry of biopharmaceutical companiesinto pediatric brain tumor trials by producingindustry-level data, requisite to beginning new clinicaltrials in humans
  • Provides 100% of the grant funding to the research:NBTS does not pay for hospital’s indirect costs
  • Doubles the investment dollar: Collaborative agreements signed with partner research centers aim tolock in an agreement that for every dollar of grantinvestment the institution will match that dollar incash or in-kind
  • Takes a unique approach to segments like IntellectualProperty (IP) to allow breakthroughs to continue tofund the model and expanded research