Columbia University Irving Medical Center Shares Latest Brain Cancer Research in Special Tour with Oligo Nation

September 25, 2023

Recently, Columbia Neurosurgery, Neurology and the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center welcomed Oligo Nation to Columbia for a behind-the-scenes tour of the team's Brain Cancer research efforts and additional projects that potentially positively impact Oligo patient care. 

Oligodendroglioma (AKA 'Oligo') is a type of brain tumor estimated to affect "at least 15,000 in the U.S. today. This disease is currently incurable and is typically diagnosed when people are in their 20s, 30s and early 40s—the prime of life. Average life expectancy post-diagnosis is approximately 12 years." (Source: Oligo Nation)

This event showcased the best aspect of the research environment at CUIMC – the ability for collaboration and partnership to achieve common goals. Our team started the day in the Neurosurgery Conference Room by meeting with Dr. Andrew Lassman to review general HICCC initiatives and visits to the Konofagou and Bartoli Brain Tumor Labs. Following the tours, various cutting-edge research projects were shared via presentations from numerous research teams. Dr. Anil Rustgi kicked off the session with a passionate welcome and the overall mission of the work. Neuropathologist Dr. Peter Canoll then discussed his work with Dr. Jeffrey Bruce, Convection-enhanced delivery (CED), "a promising technique that generates a pressure gradient at the tip of an infusion catheter to deliver therapeutics directly through the interstitial spaces of the central nervous system. (Source: NIH)

Associate Professor in Systems Biology and Cancer Genomics Expert, Dr. Peter Sims then discussed potential implications for CED as related to RAS-selective lethal 3 (RSL3), "a well-known inhibitor of glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4), could effectively induce oxidative cell death in glioblastoma cells through ferroptosis, and several signaling pathways are involved in this process." (Source: NIH) Dr. Robert Wechsler-Reya spoke about his work with Pediatric Medulloblastoma and his team's pre-clinical success with a multi-drug platform tailored to each patient, which could translate to Adult brain tumors. Dr. Luca Szalontay took the group through the current and past DIPG trials utilizing Dr. Konofagou's Focused Ultrasound device to open the blood-brain barrier non-invasively.  


Dr. Fabio Iwamoto gave an inspiring update on his trial with ST101 and the promise it shows for solid tumors, including glioma. "ST101 is a first-in-class peptide antagonist of C/EBPβ with a dual mechanism of action to promote (1) a more favorable immune tumor microenvironment by inhibiting formation of immunosuppressive myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) and (2) cytotoxic activity in tumor cells by disrupting C/EBPβ-driven oncogenic activity. (Source: Pharma) Lastly, Dr. Brian Gill was slated to present on microenvironment and seizure activity and how the team is building on its further work advancing its landmark study, "Glioma-Induced Alterations in Neuronal Activity and Neurovascular Coupling during Disease Progression" (Source: PubMed), but he was called to the Operating Room.

To close the program, Brock Green, the founder of Oligo Nation, offered reflections after raising over $4M for research and plans on expanding another $6M over the next five years. Mr. Green said, "These are my best days when I can spend time in the labs and learn all the new work being done to support our organization's mission." Following the presentations, guests from Columbia joined Oligo Nation at its Annual Fundraiser in New Canaan, CT.

As Neurosurgery continues to build these interdisciplinary partnerships across the organization to advance our research in neuro-oncology, "We're incredibly fortunate to have excellent non-profit partners like the Oligo Foundation who continue to fight for support in our mission," said Dr. Jeffery Bruce, Chair of the Neuro-Oncology Division.

Learn more about Oligo Nation via their website: