The Latest from the Marcus Foundation: $6.5M for Brain Tumors

Earlier this year, the Marcus Foundation put up $15 million to support the first two years of a trial at Duke Medical exploring whether umbilical cord blood could be used to treat autism, cerebral palsy, and stroke. Now, they’ve given the Georgia Institute of Technology a $6.5 million grant to help advance development of a device to treat brain cancer.

The work supported this time around sounds almost out of science fiction. A team of GIT researchers, coupled with researchers at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University, are in the process of developing a monorail device designed to “redirect” brain tumors, encouraging them to grow in a gel sink—a self-contained area within the brain.

Once tumors are concentrated within the gel sink, they can be removed, or induced to die through chemical signaling. We had a big "wow" moment reading this one. Did you? It sounds pretty amazing, and it’s already been shown to reduce tumor load in rodent brains. This $6.5 million is just a shot in the arm to speedboat this device through the clinical trial process and on to the FDA, which will be involved in developing the manufacturing process and in developing a clinical Investigational New Drug (IND) study, which will be conducted in Atlanta.

Though the device has been developed with children’s brains in mind, researchers hope that it can be used to treat adult brain cancers as well.

"Research labs such as ours are set up to achieve scientific and engineering breakthroughs, but for these breakthroughs to reach patients, we need to follow good manufacturing practices, rigorous safety and quality testing, adhere to FDA guidelines for obtaining regulatory approvals, and design appropriate clinical trials," said Ravi Bellamkonda, the Wallace H. Coulter Chair in Biomedical Engineering at GIT and lead investigator on the project. "All of these processes are going to be greatly enhanced and accelerated with this critical and visionary Marcus Foundation support."