"Project to Cure" Funds Brain Tumor Research at The Feinstein Institute
It began with a diagnosis in a four-year-old Long Island boy. A brain tumor removed by doctors at Schneider Children's Hospital (SCH) almost eight years ago th and the boy's recovery against a formidable disease th inspired his family to raise money for brain tumor research. And yesterday, Marc Symons, PhD, and his staff at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research accepted a $50,000 donation from "Project to Cure," a foundation started by Andrea and Charles Hirsch of Dix Hills. The donation will be used for basic and clinical research conducted by Marc Symons, PhD and his colleagues at the Feinstein Institute.
(Media-Newswire.com) - It began with a diagnosis in a four-year-old Long Island boy. A brain tumor removed by doctors at Schneider Children’s Hospital ( SCH ) almost eight years ago – and the boy’s recovery against a formidable disease – inspired his family to raise money for brain tumor research. And yesterday, Marc Symons, PhD, and his staff at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research accepted a $50,000 donation from “Project to Cure,” a foundation started by Andrea and Charles Hirsch of Dix Hills. The donation will be used for basic and clinical research conducted by Marc Symons, PhD and his colleagues at the Feinstein Institute.
“We wanted to give back to Schneider Children’s Hospital and The Feinstein Institute,” said Andrea Hirsch. Her son Alex was four years old when headaches and sheer lethargy brought him into the emergency room. That evening, May 25, 2000, he was diagnosed with a benign pituitary tumor. The next day, Steven Schneider, MD, and Mark Mittler, MD, co-chiefs of pediatric neurosurgery at SCH, spent 12 hours removing the tumor. The boy made a full recovery.
But other children are not as lucky. Each year, two in every 100,000 children are diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a cancerous brain tumor. Doctors at Schneider Children’s Hospital take care of around 50 of these children a year.
At The Feinstein Institute, which is the research arm of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, Dr. Symons and his colleagues have created a unique program to develop a way to stop these potentially deadly brain tumors. The Feinstein’s Tissue Donation Program has collected over 100 brain tumor specimens, which arrive fresh from surgery. Some of the tissue is used immediately to understand how brain tumor cells infiltrate normal brain tissue and grow unstopped. The rest of the tumor sample is frozen for future experiments.
Dr. Symons, head of the Tumor Cell Biology Laboratory, has been tracking a key protein called Rac which belongs to a family of genes known as Rho GTPases. More than a decade ago, this same team discovered that Rac plays a critical role in cell transformation. More recently, they found that blocking the protein inhibits the invasive behavior of cancerous cells. Now, they are analyzing signaling pathways that are stimulated by Rac and mining them for new treatment targets. Rac, said Dr. Symons, is a particularly heavily trafficked node in the cellular signaling network, integrating signals it receives from up to 100 other elements and, in turn, relaying this information to dozens of signaling components. They have recently figured out which of these signaling events are critical for cancer cell invasion and metastasis. They are working with Feinstein chemist Yousef Al-Abed to develop molecules that inhibit GTPases to put the reigns on tumor growth.
The scientists are also pulling out brain tumor stem cells from the specimens to figure out how the tumors grow – and identify ways to stop this invasion. They are also trying to understand how the immune system is co-opted by the tumor and helps the tumor infiltrate healthy tissue. “This is truly cutting-edge science,” said Dr. Schneider. This summer, a teenager who also survived a benign brain tumor, will be working in the Symons laboratory during a student internship program.
“We want to give families the same opportunities that we had,” said Andrea Hirsch, whose son Alex is now 12. Margot, his sister, is 10-years-old, and she knows well that a brain tumor can take its toll on the whole family. For more information on Project to Cure, visit www.projecttocure.org.
Contact: Jamie Talan, science writer-in-residence 516-562-1232 ( o ) or 631-682-8781 ( c )
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