Approaching a Decade of Driving Innovation in the Neurosciences through Research Funding

Approaching a Decade of Driving
Innovation in the Neurosciences
through Research Funding
Dear BSF Community,
As 2011 comes to a close, we look back on another successful year of funding
innovation in the neurosciences. Additionally, as the foundation approaches
our ten-year anniversary, we reflect on a decade of progress driving cutting-edge
research for Meningiomas and other primary brain tumors. Some highlights in
advancing brain science research, in supporting patients and caregivers, and in
clinician development over the past decade include:
ƒƒ We have funded and committed more than $12 million toward research and
patient support.
ƒƒ BSF-supported investigators have been able to garner more than $40
million in additional support as a result of BSF’s seed funding.
ƒƒ We now support the largest portfolio of research to date, with nine projects
awarded in 2012, along with the continuation of four projects from 2011.
ƒƒ Dr. Nathalie Agar received Director’s New Innovator’s Award from the
National Institutes of Health for her BSF project.
ƒƒ We organized Meningioma Awareness Day, the first and only patientfocused event concerning Meningiomas in the world. We also organized
Pituitary Day, the only such event in the New England region.
ƒƒ Co-sponsored by the BSF and Brigham & Women’s Hospital, The
Master Class in Endoscopic Anterior Skull Base Surgery provided nearly 30
neurosurgeons from around the world the opportunity to learn specialized
techniques using the most up-to-date technology in removing pituitary tumors.
ƒƒ In partnership with Embolden Design, we launched a new modernized
website to better communicate with the BSF community and educate those
needing information on primary brain tumors.
November 2011 - Newsletter
What’s Inside:
Reflections on 2011
New Investigator Spotlight: Dr.
Priscilla Brastianos
2012 Research Projects
Tee it Up for Brain Tumor Research
Golf & Tennis Classic
Master Class in Endoscopic Anterior
Skull Based Surgery
Educational Events
Pituitary Day
Meningioma Awareness Day
We are proud of our accomplishments, fiscal discipline, and efficient stewardship
of the contributions of our supporters as we embrace our proven funding model in
support of a very talented pool of researchers.
Partnership Highlight: Daniel E.
Ponton Fund for the Neurosciences
We are grateful for the continued generosity of so many supporters, donors, and
volunteers. I invite all who see the value in our mission and are like-minded in their
desire to advance medical research for tumors and cancers of the brain to join us.
Our Generous Supporters
Looking Ahead
How You Can Help
Steven Haley, Founder
The Brain Science Foundation works to find a cure for
primary brain tumors by advancing the understanding
of brain function and patient care. The foundation
supports cutting edge research in multiple areas,
from developing and testing new treatments,
epidemiological studies, improvements in patient
care, and basic research.
New Investigator Spotlight:
Priscilla Brastianos, MD
Dr. Priscilla Brastianos is one of the newest investigators to be
awarded BSF funding. Her research focuses on understanding
what causes cancer to spread to the central nervous system,
one of the leading causes of cancer death. Her current work
focuses on the genomes of metastasized tumors in the brain.
Working very closely with Dr. Rameen Beroukhim (another
recipient of BSF funding) and others at the Broad Institute,
Dr. Brastianos is using cutting-edge sequencing technology
to understand the genetic alterations in metastatic disease.
Her hope is that they will identify new therapeutic targets to
treat this devastating complication of cancer.
A graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Dr.
Brastianos is Fellow in Medical Oncology at the Dana-Farber
Cancer Institute. During a recent address as a BSF guest,
she noted that her mother’s experience with this very cancer
inspires her to advance the knowledge concerning cancer
metastasis. Read about Dr. Brastianos’s BSF project on page 4.
Announcing the 2012
Research Projects
In October 2011, BSF awarded nine researchers with
funding to explore causes, treatment, and understanding of
brain tumors. Grants awarded, each supporting two years of
research, represent an exciting array of investigations into
primary brain tumors.
The BSF has in place a funding model that ensures only the
most promising and mission-aligned research is funded. With
some of the most incredible minds in the field, our Scientific
Advisory Committee provides guidance, scientific expertise,
and vision that enables us to seed promising research to bring
about tomorrow’s innovations. Our operational procedures
ensure we remain cost conscious so precious resources are
not wasted. In addition, our founders’ support allows us to
ensure that all donations go directly to supporting targeted
research projects.
Genomic Characterization of Pituitary Tumors
“My mother’s current struggle with metastatic breast cancer is
a frequent reminder of the limited treatment options in this
disease entity. Every time her cancer spreads to another location
in her body, my drive to find new treatments strengthens.”
—Dr. Brastianos, discussing her motivations
Ian Dunn, MD, Brigham & Women’s Hospital
Dr. Ian Dunn is a young faculty member in the Department
of Neurosurgery at Brigham & Women’s Hospital who is
being cultivated for an academic career and has a great initial
track record. His early successes have made him very well
regarded within the Department. His senior collaborator
and mentor, Dr. Edward Laws, is among the world’s leading
authorities on pituitary tumors. Dr. Dunn will decode the
genes of pituitary tumors in collaboration with the Broad
Institute to accomplish this work. This investigation has
never been undertaken in a comprehensive way and any new
information that catalogs the mutations in pituitary tumors
would be welcomed by the scientific community and would
provide a solid basis for future studies.
Novel Use of Neural Stem Cells for the Targeted
Treatment of Spinal Cord Gliomas
Alexander E. Ropper, MD, Brigham &
Women’s Hospital
Dr. Alexander Ropper is the only resident
trainee currently receiving BSF funding.
He works in a highly recognized laboratory
with Dr. Teng at Brigham & Women’s
Hospital and the West Roxbury Veterans
Administration Hospital, a laboratory
known for spinal cord research. His project addresses spinal
cord glioma, a tumor virtually unstudied by the scientific
community. The incidence of these tumors has increased in the
last two decades and there is no effective treatment—removing
the tumor invariably leaves a patient disabled. This project aims
to engineer stems cells to deliver a highly potent chemotherapy
only where needed, with the goal of shrinking the tumor while
greatly minimizing overall toxicity of treatments.
Analysis of microRNA Determinants of Survival in
Anna Krichevsky, PhD, Brigham & Women’s Hospital
Dr. Krichevsky’s project takes advantage of the role of
recently discovered microRNAs (for which the Nobel Prize
was recently awarded). These molecules control many
processes in cells. The project takes a “top down” approach to
find the most effective microRNA targets for the treatment
of glioblastoma, including controlling the growth and
invasiveness of the tumors.
Genes for Radiation Associated Meningioma
Elizabeth Claus, MD, PhD, Brigham &
Women’s Hospital, Yale University
Dr. Elizabeth Claus is a well-known
and established investigator who has
contributed greatly to the BSF mission.
In this project, she extends her past
investigations by looking at the genes
contributing to the development of
Meningiomas after exposure to radiation. Over the next two
years, they will compare variants in genes thought to repair
DNA damage in two groups: persons with Meningiomas
who were previously exposed to ionizing radiation, and
persons with similar exposure but who have not developed
Meningiomas. If successful, findings could be used to identify
persons for whom radiation therapy may be associated with
an increased risk of adverse outcomes.
Investigating Meningioma Recurrence with
the Comprehensive Resources of the Nurses’
Health Study
Sandro Santanagata, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
The Nurses’ Health Study is a widely recognized, ongoing
epidemiologic project that was initiated at Brigham & Women’s
Hospital in 1976. At that time, over 121,000 registered nurses, all
women between the ages of 30 and 55, were recruited. In 1989,
a second phase with approximately the same number of nurses
was enrolled. More than 600 of these nurses have developed
Meningiomas. This project will collect tumor tissues from these
cases and examine the links to the extensive epidemiological and
biological data available. The project focuses on Meningioma
biology through the use of a very large set of patients, giving it
tremendous potential.
Elucidation and Small Molecule Inhibition of Sluginduced Invasion and Metastases in Glioblastoma
and Other Cancers
Mark Johnson, MD, PhD, Brigham & Women’s Hospital
Dr. Mark Johnson is an established member
of the Department of Neurosurgery at
Brigham & Women’s Hospital and an
expert on brain tumors. This project
explores “transcription factors,” signaling
proteins within the cell that turn both genes
and proteins on and off and contribute to
cancer growth. Specifically, Dr. Johnson has identified a cell
regulator that is highly expressed in glioblastomas and has
been shown to participate in continued tumor growth. This
work represents a new strategy to decrease the invasion of
glioblastoma to adjacent parts of the brain.
Dr. Claus and members of her team.
Development of a Natural Viewing Paradigm
for fMRI Language Mapping for Brain Tumor
Surgery Planning
Yanmei Tie, PhD, Brigham & Women’s
Preventing injury to language areas during
tumor resection is especially important
as damage can lead to lifelong language
deficits known as aphasia. Mapping out
the language function areas in individual
patients poses a challenge due to the high complexity and
variability of the brain language network location from
patient to patient. To overcome this limitation, Dr. Tie
aims to develop a novel imaging protocol for mapping
individual patient’s language areas. This protocol is less
demanding than traditional approaches that require active
patient participation, allowing language mapping for more
patients, especially those who cannot perform traditional
language tasks. This project has the potential to provide
a comprehensive map of the complex language network,
reducing the time and cost of pre-surgical planning.
Identifying Drivers of Brain Metastases
Priscilla Brastianos, MD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
This project focuses on what makes tumors spread or
metastasize to the brain. Dr. Brastianos hypothesizes that breast
cancer cells, and likely other tumors, undergo several genetic
alterations while they are multiplying that allow tumor cells
to spread and implant in the brain. Dr. Brastianos has already
developed methods to sequence the genes of metastatic tumors
and compare them to tumors that have not metastasized. She
is looking specifically for mutations in genes that occur as a
result of the rapid multiplication of cancer cells. This project
represents an understudied area, even though metastatic
disease accounts for almost 90% of cancer deaths. If the genetic
changes leading to metastases could be understood, patients
would survive longer.
The Role of microRNAs Monocyte-Mediated
Glioma Pathogenesis
Galina Gabriely, PhD, Brigham &
Women’s Hospital
Inflammation occurs immediately
adjacent to brain tumors, and the main
cell in this inflammatory response is
the monocyte, a type of white blood
cell. Dr. Gabriely will study microRNA profiles in the
monocytes surrounding tumors. She plans to produce
an experimental treatment by changing the microRNA
in these inflammatory cells. This work represents a very
original extension of the idea of targeted therapy for brain
tumors. The proposal team seeks to take advantage of the
fact that these monocytes are attracted to glioma cells and
that the functioning of monocytes can be manipulated
through microRNA.
Dr. Alexandra Golby giving a demonstration of the new
AMIGO suite. Dr. Golby is a mentor for Dr. Tie, a new BSF
More detailed descriptions of these projects and full bios of the principal
investigators can be found on the BSF website (
Tee It Up for Brain Tumor Research—Third Annual
BSF Golf & Tennis Classic!
On October 3rd, the Brain Science Foundation gathered
with more than 150 supporters for the Tee It Up for Brain
Tumor Research Golf and Tennis Classic. Participants were
welcomed with fantastic sunny weather, the rare treat of
playing during the harvesting of cranberries around the bog,
and a moving testimonial from new grant recipient, Dr.
Priscilla Brastianos.
Before the players set off, a casual lunch, generously sponsored
by Ellen Hurvitz & Barry Strasnick, allowed participants to
visit together and enjoy the pleasant day. Following a great
day on the course with numerous putting, driving, and holein-one competitions, as well as an exciting tennis tournament,
participants were treated to a cocktail reception and dinner
sponsored by the Lagasse Group. Top sponsors for the event
include Ocean Spray Cranberries, Suffolk Construction’s
Red & Blue Foundation, EFG International, and the Kessler
Family Foundation.
Foundation is grateful
to all the sponsors,
participants, volunteers,
and donors to the auction
for the incredible support!
Their contributions are
sure to help make the
coming year one of the
most impactful in the
Foundation’s history.
“From the contests to the amazing course and
wonderful evening event, it was so great to be a
part of this day and support this cause!”
“A great big ‘thank you’ from Keith and me for
asking us to participate in your Brain Science
Golf & Tennis Classic. It was a beautiful day
and we had a great time.”
BSF Partners with World-Renowned Neurosurgeon
to Sponsor the Master Class in Endoscopic Anterior
Skull Based Surgery
On March 9–10, the Brain Science
Foundation co-sponsored The Master
Class in Endoscopic Anterior Skull Base
Surgery with Brigham & Women’s
Hospital. Led by world-renowned
pituitary expert and longtime BSF
collaborator Dr. Edward R. Laws, Jr.,
MD, FACS, the course provides the
opportunity for surgeons to learn the
endoscopic techniques that he and his
team at Brigham & Women’s Hospital
use to treat pituitary tumors.
The course features live operations simulcast from the
operating room to the lecture hall, including 3-D and
endoscopic displays. Attendees have the opportunity to
interact with the surgeons in the operating room throughout
the case.
One participant, a neurosurgeon from the Boston area, had
this to say about the program: “The recent Master’s course was
terrific. Best clinical educational session I have experienced.”
The BSF is proud to be a part of clinician-focused events that
provide immediate benefit to patients around the world. A
second Master Class will be held from December 1–2, 2011.
The Master Class lecture hall is equipped with live video feed
from the operating room, including 3-D and endoscopic displays.
“Again, can’t thank you enough for getting me
plugged into this course, and for the terrific reception
you and your colleagues gave me. My patients will
benefit from what I learned.”
Register Now! Pituitary Day 2012 ­— March 24
Register now for the BSF’s second Pituitary Day, cohosted with Brigham & Women’s Hospital’s Department
of Neurosurgery. This all-day conference unites patients,
caregivers, family, and friends with leading clinicians,
researchers, nurses, and other experts to discuss
the latest in pituitary diagnosis and treatment.
By way of a series of presentations and panel
discussions, we will discuss basic and new
information related to pituitary disorders,
including physical and psychological aspects,
and other important patient issues.
Following the last Pituitary Day held in November 2010, a
patient from New York told us: “Thank you sincerely! I can’t
put into words how helpful it was to learn from the pros in a lay
person’s terms. The passion of all the doctors shined through.”
Pituitary Day is scheduled for March 24, 2012
at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston,
MA. For registration information, visit the BSF
website ( or call
us at 781-239-2903.
Educational Events in 2011
Throughout the year, we offer a number of educational
opportunities for patients, their families, and other interested
members of the BSF community. Participants learn about
the latest advancements in research related to primary brain
tumors in an accessible and supportive setting.
The BSF Lecture Series runs throughout the year. In
February, Dr. Elizabeth Claus detailed her ongoing
epidemiologic work on the causes of Meningioma, both
genetic and environmental. Through work supported by
BSF, Dr. Claus revealed specific genetic links related to
Meningiomas and also shared discoveries that have led to
new areas of research.
In June, Dr. Rameen Beroukhim spoke during another BSF
Lecture Series about decoding the genome of Meningioma
tumors and what this research could lead to. He also
provided a fascinating glimpse
into the work of the Broad
Institute and how advances in
DNA sequencing have opened
up whole new worlds of research
Save the Date:
Meningioma Awareness Day
April 27–28, 2012
Meningioma Awareness Day brings together physicians and
other health providers, researchers, Meningioma patients and
their families for mutual learning about the latest research
into the causes, detection, and treatment of the disease.
This signature event provides information and strategies for
coping with this potentially life-threatening primary brain
tumor. According to the Central Brain Tumor Registry of
the United States (, Meningioma represent
the most common type of primary brain tumor (34.4%),
yet it is given considerably less attention than other diseases
of the brain. A new element from the previous Meningioma
Awareness Day, One-on-One: Your Questions Answered,
will be held again on Friday evening.
During a BSF event in April, Dr. Alexandra Golby
presented details of the Advanced Multimodality Image
Guided Operating (AMIGO) Suite. This multi-million
dollar, world-class technology allows for CT scans, MRI,
and PET to be made live during surgery. Dr. Golby, who
has received more than $1 million in BSF funding over
the years, developed this pioneering work as part of a
broad partnership.
In March, BSF partnered with the National Brain Tumor
Society to host a free webinar program on Meningioma
tumors. Designed for patients, caregivers, and health
professionals, participants learned about the latest treatment
and research updates from leading brain tumor experts, and
join an online Q&A session.
Partnership Highlight: the
Daniel E. Ponton Fund for
the Neurosciences
We are very excited to acknowledge the Daniel
E. Ponton Fund for the Neurosciences for their
support for the 2012 project cycle. The fund will
be sponsoring the majority of the costs for the
two projects led by Dr. Mark Johnson and Dr.
Alexander Ropper (see their project summaries
on page 3 for more information). It is only
through critical and strategic partnerships like
this that the BSF community is able to broaden
its reach so far.
An Approach Based
on Results
As of 2010, the Brain Science Foundation has funded well over $10m toward research, education, and patient support, which has resulted in nearly $30m in research funding grants from other sources. A f ew of BSF’s recent highlights include: Looking Ahead
Meningioma Awareness Day (MAD), the Brain Science 
Principal Investigator, Elizabeth Claus, .D., Ph.D., to
has ƒƒ MVolunteer
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How You Can Help Our Cause
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toseparate grants totaling $15MM from the received two ƒƒ Sponsor or underwrite an event
National Institute of Health to continue her intense study ƒƒ Follow our news by signing up for our email list
on Meningioma and h er members have joined Sarah Donnelly,
our Epidemiology. Dr. Claus ands apart by focusing its through our website
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detection to minimize the effects We
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Principal Investigator Alexandra Golby, M.D., is recognized as a pioneer in her field with the development of a one-­‐of-­‐
a-­‐kind Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating (AMIGO) Suite. The momentum of Dr. Golby’s science intensified due to the foresight of the Brain Science Foundation in funding of h er research. When put into practice, the AMIGO enables intraoperative real-­‐time anatomical imaging modalities like x-­‐ray and u ltrasound, combined with cross sectional digital imaging systems like CT, MRI, and PET, during surgery. The BSF would like to extend its gratitude to the
rom research to p ractice; sponsors of 2011:
t of new knowledge about the mors, especially m eningiomas; ient care from early gical t reatment. portfolio approach to building designed to create depth and jects to leverage change. rain Science Foundation, please v isit our website o r Brain Science Foundation
148 Linden Street, Suite 303 | Wellesley, MA 02482
ws the Brain Science Foundation to expand and to continue Tel: 781-239-2903
t care and u ltimately a cure for meningioma. Donations can [email protected]
or you can call for other options. org Find us online!