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Cancers that attack and invade the brain present some of the greatest challenges in cancer medicine and research. Our clinicians and scientists specialize in adult and pediatric brain cancers. They lead and engage in international collaborations and have expertise that spans many specialties, including medical oncology, neurology, brain surgery, radiation oncology, and pediatric oncology. This team science approach, which also involves laboratory scientists, is aimed at deciphering the basic biology of brain cancer, uncovering biomarkers of brain cancer and developing new treatment strategies. Our experts are unraveling the complex molecular interactions that conspire to cause brain cancers by altering gene function and cell signaling. In brain cancer, perhaps more so than any other type of cancer, researchers are focused on developing methods that destroy cancer cells without harming normal cells. Investigators and clinicians are taking advantage of exciting discoveries in cancer immunology to develop new treatment approaches that use the body’s own natural defenses to fight the cancer and have the promise to safely and effectively improve survival for some of the most aggressive types of brain cancer. Biomarkers that monitor the progression of cancer and its response to therapy are another exciting area of research and help experts distinguish true cancer progression from other biological characteristics that often mimic cancer growth. These advances include sophisticated imaging techniques that are specific to brain cancer. This better understanding of how brain cancers originate has revealed many new therapeutic targets and improved ways of getting drugs directly into brain cancer cells. Our experts’ goal is to advance discoveries—as quickly as possible—to clinical studies in patients, and many of these research approaches have already been translated to clinical trials.
Johns Hopkins experts were the first to identify a class of brain cancers in children called pilomyxoid astrocytoma or PMA. Kenneth J. Cohen, MD, MBA, director of pediatric neuro-oncology, coordinates the Pilomyxoid Astrocytoma (PMA) Registry to gather information to help refine treatments and develop new ones.