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Targeting Glutamine Metabolism in MYC Driven Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumors

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Jeffrey Rubens, MD
Grant Type: 
Young Investigator Grants
Year Awarded: 
Type of Childhood Cancer: 
Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor (AT/RT)
Project Description: 

Project Updated (August 2019)

ALSF funded researcher Dr. Jeffrey Rubens discusses his groundbreaking research in atypical teratoid rhaboid tumors (AT/RT or ATRT) and shares tips for a successful Million Mile team. Watch below.


Atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumors (AT/RT) are the most common brain tumors of infancy. Patients are currently treated with intensive chemotherapy and radiation that leads to severe side effects but few long-term survivors. We are in dire need of new, targeted therapies to treat these deadly tumors. Previous attempts at targeted therapies have treated AT/RT as a single entity but recent studies show that AT/RT are complex tumors with a range of molecular drivers of tumor growth. We propose the first targeted therapeutic strategy that addresses this molecular heterogeneity. MYC has been identified as one of the common drivers of AT/RT tumorigenicity. Like MYC driven neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma, this subclass of AT/RT consists of especially aggressive, deadly tumors. MYC is known to alter tumor metabolism to make tumors dependent on glutamine for creating energy. This reliance on glutamine may create an Achilles’ heel that can be targeted to improve survival. 

Project Goal

In this proposal, we aim to study how MYC expression sensitizes AT/RT to medications blocking glutamine metabolism. We will then determine the survival benefit of a novel glutamine antagonist with improved penetration into the brain. Finally, we will look at resistance patterns that can help us identify further targeted therapies that can be paired with glutamine antagonists to further improve AT/RT survival. These studies will develop the preclinical rationale for future clinical studies aimed at improving our patient's lives suffering from these deadly tumors.

Project Update 2020

Update downstream of MYC-expressing AT/RT to extend survival. We use the glutamine metabolic inhibitor 6-diazo-5-oxo L-norleucine (DON) in combination with carboplatin to improve survival in MYC-expressing AT/RT. We are working toward translating these findings into a new clinical trial to target aggressive, MYC-expressing pediatric tumors.

Co-funded by: 
SebastianStrong Foundation