Brain Tumors

Primary tumors form in brain tissue because of abnormal cell growth. They can occur in several different forms. The most common are gliomas, which begin in the glue-like connective tissue of the brain. These aggressive tumors tend to infiltrate the brain, making them difficult to remove surgically. They’re particularly resistant to chemotherapy and radiation.

Fred Hutch researchers are developing treatments for brain cancers that affect both adults and children. Our scientists work on the front lines of research to pioneer new approaches and shift the existing standard of care beyond surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

According to the American Brain Tumor Association, brain cancers kill nearly 14,000 Americans annually. As Fred Hutch research teams tackle these tough-to-treat tumors, we’re laying the groundwork for better outcomes for all brain cancer patients.
 

Brain cancer
A brain tumor tissue scan. Fred Hutch

Brain Cancer Research

Fred Hutch scientists work at the intersection of multiple disciplines — from fundamental biology to precision oncology and gene editing — to pioneer new approaches and improve outcomes for adult and pediatric brain cancer patients.

Fundamental Biology

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Fred Hutch scientists are studying the fundamental mechanisms of early brain development. Insights into the genetics and cell biology of these processes in normal development are critical to understanding how they go wrong in brain cancer. Using laboratory models, our scientists are learning how brain cells become specialized and migrate to their proper locations in the brain.

Developing Precision Therapies

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Fred Hutch scientists are learning the biological secrets of brain tumors, such as the genetic controls that drive their development and the signals they use to grow. We are building on this knowledge to develop new treatments that target these cancers’ hidden weaknesses.

To aid us in this work, we’ve developed specialized mouse models of brain cancer that accurately reflect human biology. And we’ve built high-tech new systems for producing and testing new drugs for people with brain cancer.

Examples of new drugs and treatments we’re developing for people with brain cancer include immunotherapies, gene editing approaches and highly targeted drugs specially designed to penetrate into the brain.

 

Optimizing Current Therapies

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Our research teams are working on maximizing the effectiveness of currently available therapies for brain cancer, such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. We are uncovering the biological reasons these therapies work in some patients but not others. With this knowledge, we can improve or better target these treatments to the patients most likely to benefit. We are seeking new drugs that synergize with current therapies to make them more effective. And we’re pioneering new methods to protect patients from the side effects of these treatments.

Disease Types

Glioblastoma

The most common type of primary brain tumor is called a glioma. It is so named because it begins in the glial (from the Greek word for “glue”), or supportive, tissue of the brain. A glioblastoma is the most malignant form of this tumor and is synonymous with a grade 4 glioma. It’s also sometimes called a grade 4 astrocytoma because it arises from star-shaped cells called astrocytes. 

Medulloblastoma

Medulloblastoma is a fast-growing tumor that is relatively rare. It arises from immature cells at the earliest stage of development. Medulloblastoma always occurs in the cerebellum — the lower, rear portion of the brain. This type of tumor rarely spreads outside the brain and spinal cord.

Oligodendroglioma

These tumors often contain mineral deposits (calcifications) and areas of bleeding. They may also harbor cysts. Oligodendrogliomas are most commonly found in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, but they can also occur in other areas. They are generally slow-growing and may be present for years before diagnosis.

Xray of brain tumor

Glioblastoma

Child watching a scientist look at an experiment

Medulloblastoma

Oligodendroglioma

Glioblastoma

The most common type of primary brain tumor is called a glioma. It is so named because it begins in the glial (the Greek word for “glue”), or supportive, tissue of the brain. A glioblastoma is the most malignant form of this tumor and is synonymous with a grade 4 glioma. It’s also sometimes called a grade 4 astrocytoma because it arises from star-shaped cells called astrocytes. 

Featured project

Oncoscape: Laying the Path to Precision Medicine

Cancer researchers and clinicians gather millions of bits of data per patient. But how to mine these reams of data for insights? 

Spearheaded by Fred Hutch, Oncoscape is an open-source, web-based tool that equips researchers to uncover patterns in the data and translate their findings into clinical action.

The goal: to arm scientists with the resources to revolutionize personalized patient care.

Selected Brain Tumor Clinical Trials

Clinical research is an essential part of the scientific process that leads to new treatments and better care. Clinical trials can also be a way for patients to get early access to new cutting-edge therapies. Our clinical research teams are running clinical studies on various kinds of brain tumors.

See all Brain Tumor Clinical Trials

Fred Hutch campus

Our Brain Tumor Researchers

Our interdisciplinary scientists and clinicians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat brain tumors as well as other cancers and diseases.

Meet Our faculty
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance building

Patient Treatment & Care

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, our clinical care partner, gives patients access to the comprehensive, world-class treatments developed at Fred Hutch.

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