UCLA researchers awarded grant from National Cancer Institute

Image of Dr. Benjamin Ellingson
Dr. Benjamin Ellingson

Researchers from the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center were awarded a $620,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop a noninvasive imaging tool to provide information about tumor biology and behavior to better understand how brain tumors respond to new targeted treatments.

Benjamin Ellingson, director of the UCLA Brain Tumor Imaging Laboratory and professor of radiological sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and David Nathanson, associate professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the medical school, are leading a team of cancer cell biologists, physicists and clinicians who will test a novel, targeted therapy drug with new imaging technology to overcome challenges associated with brain tumor drug development.

The team will test a highly penetrant epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitor developed at UCLA and specifically designed for glioblastoma, a deadly and fast-growing brain tumor. EGFR is a protein frequently mutated in about 60% of people diagnosed with glioblastoma, making it an important target for treatment. This project opens a new paradigm for brain tumor drug development using a combination of drugs designed for brain tumors and companion imaging biomarkers for predicting or monitoring treatment response to these drugs.

“Unlike other types of cancers, where surgeries can be performed to study drug effects on the tumor, brain tumors must rely on noninvasive imaging technology to provide information about tumor biology mechanisms,” Ellingson said. “If our approach and new treatment works, it has the potential to benefit a significant number of patients and provide a framework for testing new drugs using noninvasive imaging techniques to monitor tumor biology after treatment.”