The Brain Trust at NYU Langone’s New Brain Tumor Center

Brain cancer currently strikes more than 23,000 Americans each year. Now an ambitious research effort to find new strategies for extending survival from this challenging cancer is getting under way at the new Brain Tumor Center in the Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone.

The new center is headed by noted neuro-oncologist Howard A. Fine, MD, deputy director of the Perlmutter Cancer Center and the Anne Murnick Cogan and David H. Cogan Professor of Oncology. Dr. Fine, who spearheaded pioneering brain tumor programs at the National Cancer Institute and the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, aims to go beyond the current focus on genetic mutations in cancer to explore the role of stem cells, tumor cell signalling pathways, and immune reactions, as well as find ways to help treatments to penetrate the formidable blood-brain barrier.

He’s already tapping into an impressive brain trust, one that includes renowned neurosurgeon John G. Golfinos, MD, chair of the NYU Langone Department of Neurosurgery. Dr. Golfinos, an active brain tumor researcher, will be working closely with other neurosurgeons in his department to bring a range of expertise in brain cancer to the new center. The team has also been collaborating with the director of NYU Langone’s Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine and of The Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Center for Stem Cell Biology, Ruth Lehmann, PhD, on stem cell research that has shown promise in helping to control glioblastomas, the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer. Dr. Lehmann is also the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Professor of Cell Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

Neuroscientist Richard W. Tsien, DPhil, the Druckenmiller Professor of Neuroscience, who directs NYU Langone’s Neuroscience Institute, has also joined forces with the new center, enlisting the help of basic scientists in the Cancer Center’s laboratories to unravel the biomolecular mechanisms behind some of the deadliest brain tumors. The Druckenmiller’s recent $100 million gift to create the Neuroscience Institute has bolstered collaborations like these.

Dr. Fine has even set his sights beyond brain tumors, aiming to enhance research in other NYU Langone labs that explore the underpinnings of breast cancer, melanoma, prostate cancer, and hematological malignancies. He notes that research from these labs has shown that different cancers may have more in common than previously thought. “We need to link different research approaches together to progress as much as possible,” he says.