Despite advances in surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, the survival of patients with malignant brain tumors has not significantly improved. Successful treatment of brain tumors will only result from a more thorough understanding of tumor biology with respect to the mechanisms of origin, growth and metastasis.
Research and investigation in tumor biology have increased, and a concerted effort has focused on understanding the processes of tumor growth at the cellular and molecular levels.
Studies have shown that the proliferative nuclear antigen (Ki67 / MIB1) has predictive value for tumor aggressiveness. Cytokines and growth factors regulate growth of cells in vivo and possibly in vitro. The abnormal growth of tumor cells may result from uncontrolled production of autocrine cytokines and growth factors. Secretion of cytokines (TNFa, IL-1ß , IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, TGFß -1) by tumors may also influence immune responses to cancer cells. In addition to cell growth regulation, certain growth factors (VEGF and bFGF ) also regulate and control angiogenic processes.
Growth and metastasis of tumors have been associated not only with growth factors but also with expression of matrix metalloproteases which are involved in tumor migration and invasion. The changes in a cancer cell which distinguish it from its non-cancerous tissue of origin must involve changes in the expression of certain key genes. Studies employing the use of the cDNA microarray have shown the capability to display the presence of a range of various genes and their degree of expression. With the use of cell culture techniques, cells from human tumor can be grown and maintained in the laboratory under cryopreservation, thereby allowing a number of analyses to be performed.
The work in the brain tumor research laboratory has been designed to generate molecular profiles of brain tumors from which the outcomes can be stratified and correlated with patient clinical data.