March 14, 1994
Media Contact: Joann Rodgers
Phone: (410) 955-8659

A Johns Hopkins University-based consortium of hospitals has received $2.3 million from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to develop better ways to treat malignant brain tumors.

The brain tumor consortium, one of only three funded in the United States, is comprised of six medical institutions already recognized for excellence in brain tumor research and treatment. Johns Hopkins is already the site of the National Familial Brain Tumor Registry.

Consortium members will evaluate promising new agents, biologic approaches and new ways of administering existing therapies, says Stuart Grossman, M.D., associate professor of oncology and neuroseurogery at Hopkins and co-director of the consortium.

"The long-term objective is to improve the now dismal outcome for patients with malignant brain tumors," he says. "The outcomes are poor because the disease is extremely complicated to treat. Brain tumors are resistant to conventional treatment approaches. The susceptibility of normal adjacent brain tissue to adverse effects of therapy and the limited capacity of the brain to repair itself further complicates treatment," Grossman adds.

The consortium, which includes Brown University, (Providence, RI), Columbia University, (New York), Henry Ford hospital (Detroit), Massachusetts General hospital (Boston) and Northwestern University (Chicago), will study new anti-cancer drugs, treatments with polymer implants at the tumor sight, and gene therapy. The group also will explore ways to improve the quality of life of brain tumor patients.

Malignant brain tumors are one of the deadliest forms of cancer. More than 12,000 people died of malignant brain tumors in 1993, over half of them within one year of diagnosis. These tumors are the third most common cause of cancer death in men aged 15-34 and the fourth most common in women of the same age. Among the elderly, the incidence of brain tumors is steadily increasing.

"A major objective of this clinical consortium will be to bring together the vast research resources at Johns Hopkins, the National Cancer Institute and each of the member institutions. It will be our goal to work together to translate this research effort into new, innovative clinical trials to improve the outcome for patients with brain tumors," says consortium co-director Henry Brem, M.D., professor of neurosurgery and oncology at Hopkins.

Two other consortia were funded by NCI and are being directed by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of California in San Francisco.

-- JHMI --
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