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.
Our interdisciplinary scientists and clinicians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat brain tumors as well as other cancers and diseases.
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, our clinical care partner, gives patients access to the comprehensive, world-class treatments developed at Fred Hutch.
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.
A type of cancer that can occur in the brain or spinal cord. It begins in small, star-shaped cells called astrocytes that support nerve cells. Some grow very slowly and other can grow quickly. There are four grades and the grade four is glioblastoma.
A fast-growing cancer of the central nervous system tht forms from glial (supportive) tissue of the brain and spinal cord. It can start anywhere in the brain, but most commmonly forms in the frontal or temporal lobe.
One of the most common types of primary brain tumors. Three types of glial cells can produce tumors: astocytes, microglia and oligodendrocytes. Gliomas are classified according to the type of glial cell involved in the tumor, as well as the tumor's genetic features.
A fast-growing tumor that is relatively rare. It is a type of embryonal tumor that starts in the fetal cells in the brain and starts in the lower back part of the brain, called the cerebellum. It spreads through cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to other areas around the brain and spinal cord. This tumor rarely spreads to other areas of the body.
A rare cancer that develops in a part of the nervous system called the sympathethic nervous system. Neuroblastoma develops in very early forms of nerve cells that are usually found in a developing baby. Some grow and spread quickly, while others grow slowly. It usually begins in the adrenal glands but can form in the neck, chest, abdomen and spine.
A rare tumor that can occur in the brain or spinal cord in the central nervous system (CNS). It rarely spreads outside the CNS. It can occur at any age, but most often affects adults. Tumor are identified as either a low-grade tumor that grow slowly and invade nearby tissue or malignant that are fast-growing.
A rare, fast-growing tumor that forms in cells called glial cells in a part of the brain stem called the pons. Diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas tend to spread to nearby tissue and other parts of the brain stem, are hard to treat, and have a poor prognosis (outcome). They usually occur in children.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.