Grants - V Scholar Grants - Massachusetts - 2021

Volker Hovestadt, PhD

Funded by WWE in honor of Connor’s Cure

Brain tumors are now the most common cause of cancer-related death in children.  Most affected children undergo surgery and receive extensive therapy with toxic substances, yet many will succumb to their disease. It has been a major interest of the research community and pharmaceutical companies to develop more effective drugs that target specific cancer-causing proteins. However, identifying suitable protein targets is often challenging. We question if we can target a different class of molecules called microRNAs. Our work will answer which microRNAs are the most promising targets across different types of childhood brain tumors and how to target them most effectively. 

We are developing a novel experimental system that allows us to collectively study the effects of all microRNAs in the human genome. Our system is based on modern genomic and computational techniques that are only recently feasible. This will enable us to identify and test the most promising targets. 

We are hopeful that our findings will result in a better understanding of how microRNAs cause brain tumors and will lead to better treatments that help young patients. Better treatments will result in higher survival rates and lower side effects. In the short-term, our basic research study provides molecular rationale and pre-clinical results to further pursue developments. Over the long-term, we hope that our results will lead to novel drugs that will help affected children.