Miami Cancer Institute to Lead NIH-Funded Study in the Treatment of Glioblastoma, Deadliest Type of Brain Cancer

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July 29, 2022

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Approximately 15,000 Americans are diagnosed with glioblastoma each year. Despite advances in understanding the molecular causes and effects of glioblastomas, or GBM, it remains the most common, mostly treatment-resistant, and deadliest type of brain cancer.

Manmeet Ahluwalia, M.D., deputy director, chief scientific officer and chief of Solid Tumor Medical Oncology at Miami Cancer Institute.

However, new research to better determine if a patient’s GBM has or will return is moving forward thanks to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grant awarded to two prominent physicians in this field. Manmeet Ahluwalia, M.D., deputy director, chief scientific officer and chief of Solid Tumor Medical Oncology at Miami Cancer Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida, is co-principal investigator of the $3.9 million, five-year NIH study, along with Pallavi Tiwari, Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University.

There has been growing awareness of the glioblastomas as the disease has claimed the lives of prominent individuals, including Sen. Edward Kennedy, Sen. John McCain and Beau Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden. Even with advances in cancer care, the prognosis for glioblastoma patients has not changed significantly and patients typically survive just 15-18 months beyond diagnosis.

In addition, the study leverages the long-term relationships with collaborators Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Northwestern University and GE Research.

“One of our challenges has been that current imaging studies done after radiation and chemotherapy often fail to distinguish between progression versus pseudo-progression due to the inflammation in the brain,” Dr. Ahluwalia said. “Pseudo progression occurs in 40 percent of the patients falsely indicating that the cancer is progressing when it is not and, as a result, patients can be taken off medications and treatment can be discontinued. That’s why this grant and research is so important as it will augment our current tools and make it more effective.”

The award for “Quantitative Imaging Phenotypic Classifier for Distinguishing Radiation Effects from Tumor Recurrence in Glioblastoma” will allow researchers to continue developing and optimizing sex-specific. image-based recurrence risk classifiers (male/female models have already led to better prediction of overall survival). The study will be the largest multi-institutional, histopathological research project to date, and it will ensure that non-invasive decision support is accurate.

The so-called R01 grant from the NIH stems from the oldest grant mechanism used by the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world. Only some 10 percent of R01 applications are funded, making them extremely competitive.

“The award is significant as Miami Cancer Institute continues to grow and offer innovative treatments on our journey to becoming a nationally and international recognized cancer center,” said Michael J. Zinner, M.D., CEO of the Institute. “We are proud to be on the leading-edge of cancer care.”

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