Analysis of Pediatric Spinal Glioma Models
Our long term objective is to develop more effective therapies for pediatric spinal cord gliomas, including both ependymal and astrocytic tumors. It has been difficult to model pediatric spinal cord gliomas, which include tumors known as ependymoma and low or high grade astrocytoma, by culturing the cells from patient surgeries in plastic dishes or growing them in murine models. This lack of good models has in turn hindered our ability to understand which genetic changes are the key "drivers" of tumor formation and growth, and how we might most effectively target these tumors with new therapies. We are overcoming this roadblock by using neural "stem cells" derived from the developing murine spine and grown in culture to generate glioma models, by adding to them the same genetic alterations found in ependymoma and astrocytomas from children. We have introduced three distinct sets of tumor-associated genetic changes in order to model pediatric spinal ependymoma, pediatric spinal low grade astrocytoma, and pediatric spinal high grade astrocytoma. This will allow us to better understand which genetic changes in pediatric spinal gliomas are most important for formation and growth of tumors, and how we can treat them more effectively.
We will examine the growth and differentiation of these various models in order to determine how closely they resemble the human tumors listed above.
Mentored by Dr. Charles Eberhart
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD