The medical research team involved in this project has extensive experience with medulloblastoma, and contributes complementary expertise that is critical for success.
Roger J. Packer, M.D., is Senior Vice President of the Center for Neuroscience and Behavioral Medicine, Gilbert Distinguished Professor of Neurofibromatosis, and is Director of both the Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Institute and the Brain Tumor Institute of Children’s National Hospital. Dr. Packer’s present academic title is Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at George Washington University. Dr. Packer is presently co-chair of the Brain Malignancy Committee of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and holds senior leadership roles on a multiple committees setting the directions for neurologic clinical and basic science research for the future, including the NCI/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) sponsored Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium, the Children’s Oncology Group (Medulloblastoma Committee Chair), the Department of Defense (DOD) sponsored Neurofibromatosis Clinical Trails Consortium, the Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium, and the Collaborative Network for Neuro-Oncology Clinical Trails (CONNECT).
Eugene (Gene) Hwang, M.D., is part of the Children’s National Hospital pediatric neuro-oncology team, focusing on treating children with brain tumors. Dr. Hwang has developed and led many novel early phase therapeutic clinical trials with a focus on immunotherapeutic trials, and he also leads trials focused on gene therapy and new, targeted agents. He is the site Principal Investigator of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium, where he is the co-chair of the Immunotherapy Working Group. He serves on grant review committees and on the scientific advisory boards of several large foundations. For each patient, Dr. Hwang carefully considers the best possible options for treatment, trying new, cutting edge treatments coupled with the best available known therapies.
Dr. Wechsler-Reya received his Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Pennsylvania, and did postdoctoral training at the Wistar Institute and at Stanford. He was a faculty member at Duke University before moving to Sanford Burnham Prebys (SBP) Medical Discovery Institute, where he serves as Director of the Tumor Initiation and Maintenance Program. Dr. Wechsler-Reya’s research focuses on the signals that control growth and differentiation in the cerebellum, and how these signals are dysregulated in the pediatric brain tumor medulloblastoma. His contributions include demonstrating the importance of Sonic hedgehog as a mitogen for neuronal precursors; discovering a novel population of stem cells in the developing cerebellum; demonstrating that both neuronal precursors and stem cells can serve as cells of origin for medulloblastoma; and identifying cancer stem cells that are critical for tumor propagation of Sonic hedgehog-associated tumors.
Duane A. Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D. is Co-Director of the Preston A. Wells Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy and Director of the University of Florida Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program. He is the Phyllis Kottler Friedman Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and the State of Florida Endowed Cancer Research Chair at the University of Florida College of Medicine. Dr. Mitchell graduated from the Medical Center Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD) at Duke University Medical Center and completed post-graduate training in pathology and a neuro-oncology research fellowship prior to joining the faculty at Duke in 2005 as an Assistant Professor. During his tenure at Duke, Dr. Mitchell held positions as Director of Preclinical Research at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center and Associate Director of the Duke Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program. In 2013, Dr. Mitchell was recruited to the University of Florida and leads a comprehensive neuro-oncology program focused on translational brain tumor research within the Preston A. Wells, Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy.
Michael D. Taylor, MD, PhD, is a pediatric neurosurgeon and senior scientist at the University of Toronto affiliated Hospital for Sick Children. His research centers on the molecular genetics of medulloblastoma and ependymoma, two of the most common malignant pediatric brain tumors. He has published over 375 peer-reviewed publications, many in high-impact journals such as Nature, Science, Cell, Cancer Cell, and Lancet Oncology. His publications have been cited over 42,000 times and his findings adopted to improve clinical practice. His group demonstrated that medulloblastoma is comprised of at least four distinct diseases (Journal Clin. Oncol., 2012; Cancer Cell, 2017; Nature, 2017) and that there is clinically significant heterogeneity in metastatic medulloblastomas (Nature, 2012, 2016; Nature Genetics, 2017). His team recently showed that cerebellar tumors are a disorder of early brain development (Nature, 2019), that CAR-T-cells are an effective pre-clinical treatment for Group 3 medulloblastoma and PFA ependymomas (Nature Medicine, 2020) and that PFA ependymomas have a unique metabolic program which leads to a phenotype that appears to be unique among mammalian cells (Cell, 2020).
Dr. Vijay Ramaswamy is originally from Northern Alberta, where he completed medical school and a paediatric neurology residency at the University of Alberta (MD ’05, FRCPC ’10). Following that he completed a paediatric neuro-oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, after which he came to Toronto where he completed a PhD in Cancer Genomics at the University of Toronto (PhD ’15) and a clinical neuro-oncology fellowship at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). He is currently a staff neuro-oncologist in the Paediatric Brain Tumour Program at SickKids. His research interests primarily involve translational genomics of both medulloblastoma and ependymoma with a specific interest in recurrent and high-risk tumours.
Yanxin Pei serves as an Associate Professor at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. She earned her PhD from the Department of Neuroscience in Tsinghua University, China. She completed her post-doctoral training at Duke University and the Sanford-Burnham Institute. Dr. Pei’s laboratory research interests include generation of diverse preclinical mouse models of medulloblastoma, elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of metastasis, therapeutic resistance and tumor relapse and exploring new approaches to enhance delivery of therapeutic drugs to overcome the blood-brain barrier in the central nervous system.
Brian R. Rood, M.D., is the Medical Director of the Neuro-Oncology Program in the Brain Tumor Institute at Children’s National Hospital and a principal investigator in the Center for Cancer and Immunology Research at Children’s National Research Institute. He received a BA in English Literature from The Pennsylvania State University and an MD from Jefferson Medical College. He completed his pediatric residency training at the University of Vermont. He received his pediatric hematology/oncology training at Children’s National Hospital and, also completed a research fellowship in the molecular biology of pediatric brain tumors at the Children’s Research Institute. Currently, Dr. Rood’s research focuses on the use of proteomics in cancer biology investigation and other translational applications of mass spectrometry-based proteomics such as neoantigen identification and biomarker development. He has also been studying the contribution of germline microsatellite genotypes to pediatric brain tumor predisposition. He currently serves as the Executive Co-Chair of the Children’s Brain Tumor Network, a consortium of 21 international institutions that maintains the world’s largest pediatric brain tumor database (including tissue and genomic data), provides open-access, freely available data and tissue specimens for research, and supports ground-breaking clinical trials through data-driven precision medicine.
The Cruz Laboratory aims to develop novel innate- and adaptive-immune, cell-based therapies for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and cancer, using several technologies, including gene modification, cell expansion and bioengineering.
Dr. Sheila Singh’s research program is dedicated to applying a developmental neurobiology approach to the study of human brain tumours. As a pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Singh is acutely aware of the needs of patients and clinicians dealing with these diseases. Her unique perspective as a surgeon-scientist guides her research questions and areas of focus.
Dr. Tobey J. MacDonald is a pediatric hematologist-oncologist in Atlanta, Georgia and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University Hospital. He received his medical degree from Weill Cornell Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years.
Dr. Lena M. Kutscher is leader of the junior research group on the origins of pediatric cancer development at the German Center for Cancer Research (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. The project is part of the Structural and Functional Genomics research program, closely associated with the work of Prof. Stefan Pfister. The group is focused on understanding how aberrations in normal neurodevelopment can lead to pediatric brain cancer.
Dr. Stefan Pfister is Director of The Hopp Children’s Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) is a joint institution of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD) and the University of Heidelberg (Uni HD). Dr. Pfister’sresearch in pediatric oncology has led to a better understanding of the classification and biology of brain tumors in children and has helped to improve diagnostics and therapy and the life expectancy of these young patients.