Grants - Pennsylvania - Designated Grants - 2019

Ian Pollack, M.D.

Funded in partnership with WWE in honor of Connor’s Cure

Brain cancer is now the leading cause of cancer deaths in children. A tumor known as high-grade glioma (HGG) is the deadliest type. Children with HGG are treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. They often enroll in clinical trials to try new treatments. Unfortunately, most children die within two years of diagnosis. Part of the problem is that HGG tumors develop ways to resist the effects of treatments. Our recent work using promising new glioma treatments has identified a pattern of steps that glioma cells use to develop treatment resistance. Using state-of-the-art genetic testing, we saw how HGGs at first responded to new therapies but then became resistant. Resistant HGGs showed increased levels of a protein called QPRT, which can use energy metabolites like NAD+ to protect cancer cells from the therapy designed to kill them. This suggests that by stopping the protein function, we could overcome treatment resistance. We want to achieve two aims: First: to see if QPRT is active in other commonly used treatments for HGG, and also if recurring childhood HGGs typically show high QPRT levels. Second, using tumor tissue that we cultured in the lab, we identified a drug that inhibits the NAD+ pathway and reverses treatment resistance. We want to test this drug in an animal model of treatment-resistant HGG to see if it can prolong survival. Together these aims would reveal a way that HGGs resist treatment and potentially show how a drug could block this action to overcome treatment resistance in these tumors.