Targeting Lower-Grade Gliomas

Professor of Pathology, Pharmacology and Cancer Biology

Professor of Pathology, Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Duke University

Title: Developing Novel Approaches to Target Glioma
Investigator: Hai Yan
Grantee: Duke University

Mutations in two specific genes, IDH1 and IDH2, are very common in lower-grade and secondary gliomas.  Pinpointing how these mutations are related to brain tumor growth—and finding drugs that counteract their effects—are thus critical goals for treating the many brain cancer patients whose tumors bear these genetic changes.

With these goals in mind, ABC2 partnered with the V Foundation in 2011 to fund a 4-year, $1 million research effort led by Dr. Hai Yan at Duke University Medical Center.  Dr. Yan is a leading expert on IDH mutations in brain cancer, and his cutting-edge work explores how these genetic changes may affect cancer metabolism and brain tumor development.

In fact, with the funding from ABC2 and the V Foundation, Dr. Yan has succeeded in characterizing key genetic drivers of low-grade glioma.  He has shown that IDH mutations may work by affecting the chemical reactions that switch parts of the genetic code on and off, thereby giving cancer cells a survival advantage that lets them grow uncontrollably.  Using this information, Dr. Yan has initiated a search for drugs to target the IDH mutations and kill brain tumor cells.

Dr. Yan’s research has also identified how numerous other genes influence low-grade glioma, for example by contributing to a tumor’s radiation resistance.  By defining how specific genes affect glioma progression and a patient's response to treatment, this research will help to characterize brain tumors both genetically and clinically and direct patients toward treatments with the greatest likelihood of success.