St. Jude Comprehensive Cancer Center

Neurobiology & Brain Tumor Program

 

Brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related death in children. Despite rapid advances in our understanding of disease biology, current treatment approaches are still lacking for some patients and lead to long-term, debilitating side effects in others.

The Neurobiology and Brain Tumor Program is a collaborative, transdisciplinary research program of the St. Jude Comprehensive Cancer Center. The program aims to improve survival and morbidity for children with brain tumors by developing effective, relatively non-toxic therapies through a better understanding of disease pathogenesis.

By integrating the latest genomic and genetic technologies with studies of the developing nervous system, members of this program are efficiently translating laboratory findings into opportunities for new treatments. Our genome-wide studies of the major pediatric brain tumor types have identified novel mutations, defined molecular subgroups, and opened new avenues of basic, translational and clinical investigation. Exciting advances in the fields of molecular pathology, imaging and radiation oncology provide additional promise for progress in treatment of these clinically formidable diseases.

Program Organization and Leadership

To facilitate collaboration and drive translation, the Neurobiology and Brain Tumor Program is organized into three working groups:

  • Fundamental Neurobiology
  • Translational Research
  • Brain Tumor Therapy

These groups have been deliberately designed as an academic pipeline through which basic science discoveries can flow efficiently to the clinic. Program members are drawn from a diverse range of departments in St. Jude, including Bone Marrow Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, Cell and Molecular Biology, Developmental Neurobiology, Genetics, Oncology, Pathology, Pediatric Medicine, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Radiation Oncology.

The program is led by Suzanne Baker, PhD, and Amar Gajjar, MD. Dr. Baker, the Director of the St. Jude Division of Brain Tumor Research, has made seminal discoveries in the molecular pathogenesis of brain tumors, including the identification of histone H3 mutations in diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG) and pediatric high-grade gliomas. Dr. Gajjar, chair of the St. Jude Department of Pediatric Medicine and Director of the Division of Neuro-Oncology, is a world expert in the clinical management of pediatric brain tumors.