Funded by the Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund
Clinical outcomes in children diagnosed with high grade glioma and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma remain very poor. Even with surgical resection, chemotherapy and radiation, most of the tumors eventually relapse. This is primarily because some cancer cells develop resistant to the therapies that doctors prescribe. For the past 50 years, the identities of these therapy-resistant cancer cells remain unknown. Difficulties of obtaining relapsed tumor tissues and limited availability of animal models are the major reasons why we still don’t have new treatment. With the strong support of patients and families, we have developed a panel of animal models by directly implanting brain tumor cells into the brains of immunodeficient mice. We can now use these models to mimic what happens in children but treating the animals with the similar drugs/radiations. These models are very helpful. Indeed, our preliminary study in a small number of models have identified a set of cells expression CD57 as candidate root cells as they were found before drug treatment, remain present after very extensive clinical treatment, and can even survive the most harmful environment with no oxygen and no nutrient. This exciting finding has promoted us to perform a detailed analysis using more animal models to confirm the extraordinary capacity of the CD57+ cells in resisting therapy induced cell king, to understand how they can survive current treatment, and to find new drugs and strategies to selectively kill these seed cells. Our ultimate goal is to find new cure for children with highly malignant gliomas.