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The Neuro-Oncology Field Weighs-in: Predictions & Hopes for Brain Tumor Research Advances in 2016

In 2015 we saw a major swing toward positive momentum in the fight against brain tumors, and we’re carrying it into 2016. Last year we experienced the first new treatment for newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients approved to enter the market in nearly a decade, as well as the biggest single-year increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health in 12 years and other important advancements.

So what will 2016 bring in terms of progress and advances in brain tumor research and treatments? We reached out to some of the leading experts in the brain tumor scientific and medical community to get their thoughts, predictions and hopes for the rest of the year (note: some responses have been edited for clarity and length).

“In 2016, we will start seeing a new level of personalized medicine: patient care will include extensive molecular profiling and we will be able to match patients with specific types of cancers to their best treatments with more and more accuracy.” – Dr. Mario Viapiano, Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School

“In 2016, I am anticipating that we will see important and seminal advances in our understanding of cancer cell metabolism.  Some of these will be in studies of brain tumors, setting the stage for new therapies that target cancer-specific metabolic pathways.” – Dr. Mark Gilbert, Chief of the Neuro-Oncology Branch of the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute

“In 2016, with the publication of the new World Health Organization Classification of Tumours of the Central Nervous System, the brain tumor field will move to a classification system that incorporates molecular information alongside traditional neuropathology, establishing integrated diagnoses that should lead to improvements in diagnostic consistency, prognostic estimation, and therapeutic prediction.” – Dr. David Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital

“Immunotherapy, including that triggered by oncolytic viruses and enhanced by checkpoint inhibitors, will continue to emerge as the leading basic and clinical investigational area in neuro-oncology in 2016.” – Dr. Darell Bigner, Duke University

“In 2016, we will integrate improved supportive care and symptom management from the time of diagnosis for patients with brain tumors and their families – improving survival and the quality of that survival.” – Dr. Terri Armstrong, University of Texas Health Science Center – School of Nursing/MD Anderson Cancer Center

“In 2016, novel combinations of immunotherapy and conventional therapies will set a new bar for the treatment of malignant brain tumors. Many new strategies to boost the immune system will enter clinical trials and will define the new standard of care for patients with brain cancers.” – Dr. Viapiano, entry #2

“In 2016, I hope that there will be significant progress in the treatment of brain tumors with hopefully positive trials of the EGFRvIII vaccine rindopepimut for newly diagnosed glioblastomas and checkpoint inhibitors for recurrent glioblastomas. 2016 will hopefully also see the launch of major Bayesian biomarker-driven adaptive design trials such as INSIGHT and GBM AGILE that will hopefully accelerate the development of new therapies for our patients.” – Dr. Patrick Wen, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

“In 2016, we will learn more about how inherited variations in the genome may influence risk factors for developing molecularly defined subtypes of glioma.” – Dr. Margaret Wrensch, University of California, San Francisco

“In 2016, we will see Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative add much need fuel to brain tumor research, galvanizing clinicians, scientists, and industry to march toward the goal of making a real and massive hit to the brain tumor problem. We will see the power of everyone working together, sharing data, sharing ideas, sharing resources, and moving toward a common goal.” – Dr. Alfred Yung, MD Anderson Cancer Center

In summation, these experts believe that this year we can:

  • Improve our understanding of brain tumors, particularly at a molecular level – which can lead to new insights about potential treatment strategies;
  • Transform the way brain tumors are classified, so that doctors can more accurately diagnose patients, which could help guide treatment decisions and predict patients’ response to therapies;
  • Continue to develop new, potentially more effective and less toxic treatments for patients via the area of targeted (precision) treatments and immunotherapies – many of these are already in clinical trials that will be moving ahead in 2016;
  • Take better stock of treating patients symptoms and quality of life during treatment and drug development; and
  • Further our understanding about possible inherited risk factors for developing gliomas.

All of these things are within our reach. And all would benefit the brain tumor community, present and future. They are also all the result of past dedication; hard work; and support from scientific researchers, clinicians, patients, survivors, caregivers, advocates, volunteers, and fundraisers/donors. So, again, let’s continue to work together and keep this momentum going. We can do more together than we can do on our own – It’s Your Fight; It’s OUR Fight.

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