The goal of the Johns Hopkins Brain Cancer Biology and Therapy Laboratory (led by Dr Gregory Riggins) is to locate the genetic and genomic changes that lead to brain cancer. These molecular changes are evaluated for their potential as therapeutic targets and are often mutated genes, or genes that are over-expressed during the development of a brain cancer.
The brain cancers that the Riggins Laboratory studies are medulloblastomas and glioblastomas. Medulloblastomas are the most common malignant brain tumor for children and glioblastomas are the most common malignant brain tumor for adults. Both tumors are difficult to treat, and new therapies are urgently needed for these cancers.
Our laboratory uses large-scale genomic approaches to locate and analyze the genes that are mutated during brain cancer development. The technologies we now employ are capable of searching nearly all of a cancer genome for molecular alterations that can lead to cancer. The new molecular targets for cancer therapy are first located by large scale gene expression analysis, whole-genome scans for altered gene copy number and high throughput sequence analysis of cancer genomes. The alterations we find are then studied in-depth to determine how they contribute to the development of cancer, whether it is promoting tumor growth, enhancing the ability for the cancer to invade into normal tissue, or preventing the various fail-safe mechanisms programmed into our cells.
Our goal is to find the critical new functions that the tumor gains by a new mutation and if counteracting the mutation can slow or stop tumor growth.
In addition to identifying gene mutations and other alterations in brain cancer, we are using this information to develop better brain cancer therapy. This is done in part by screening large chemical libraries to identify small molecules that kill or halt growth of mutation containing cells. Many of these small molecules may have properties that may allow them to be developed into useful drugs. These potential drugs are being tested in experimental systems as potential therapies for brain cancer.