Brain Tumor Research

At the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC), our physician-scientists are redefining neuro-oncology research and care. Tumors of the brain and spinal cord affect both children and adults, and are extremely challenging to treat. The HICCC has an extraordinary team of physicians and scientists investigating the biology of these tumors. By understanding the cells from which the tumors arise, the microenvironment in which they grow, and the molecular mechanisms that drive tumor growth and dissemination, their goal is to develop safer and more effective approaches to therapy.

Investigators in the HICCC have already made important contributions to our understanding of brain and spinal cord tumors. Beyond the genetic mutations that are widely believed to drive tumor growth, our scientists have revealed important roles for epigenetic regulators, specialized proteins that determine which genes are active and which are silent. In addition, they have demonstrated that brain tumor growth depends on interactions between tumor cells and the cells around them, including blood vessels, immune cells and neurons. Using sophisticated computational approaches, they have identified "master regulator proteins" that are critical for tumor growth, and used these to develop novel approaches to therapy. Using cutting edge bioengineering technologies such as convection enhanced delivery and focused ultrasound, they are developing ways to circumvent the blood brain barrier and deliver drugs directly into tumors. Finally, in collaboration with the HICCC’s outstanding team of clinical investigators, they are bringing these approaches to the clinic, where they can improve outcomes for patients suffering from brain and spinal cord tumors. 

Laboratory Research

Cell & Molecular Biology | Drug Delivery & ImagingSystems BiologyTumor Microenvironment & Metastasis

Clinical Research

Neuro-Oncology | Neurosurgery | Radiation OncologyRadiology

News

Laboratory Research

Cell & Molecular Biology

  • Lloyd A. Greene, PhD

    • Professor of Pathology & Cell Biology

    Adult & Pediatric Brain Tumors

    The Greene Lab investigates the development of cell-penetrating peptides that target specific transcription factors required for survival and growth of cancer cells, including those that grow in the brain.

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  • Chao Lu, PhD

    • Assistant Professor of Genetics & Development CUMC

    Adult & Pediatric Brain Tumors

    The Lu Lab studies the higher-order epigenome regulation and how nuclear organization is dysregulated in adult and pediatric brain tumors.

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  • Markus D Siegelin, MD

    • Associate Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology

    Adult Brain Tumors

    Dr. Siegelin investigates metabolism, cell death and mechanisms of treatment resistance in glioblastoma.

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  • Brent R. Stockwell, PhD

    • Professor of Biological Sciences and Chemistry

    Adult Brain Tumors

    The Stockwell Lab examines the role of ferroptosis in treating brain cancers.

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  • Robert Wechsler-Reya, PhD

    • H. Houston Merritt Professor of Neurological Sciences (in Neurology and in Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center)

    Pediatric Brain Tumors

    The Wechsler-Reya Lab investigates the signals that control growth and differentiation in the developing nervous system and how these signals are dysregulated in childhood brain tumors.

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  • Zhiguo Zhang, PhD

    • Clyde and Helen Wu Professor of Epigenomic and Molecular Biology (in Pediatrics, Genetics and Development and in the Institute of Cancer Genetics)

    Adult & Pediatric Brain Tumors

    The Zhang Lab investigates how onco-histone mutations drive tumorigenesis of high grade pediatric glioma and identifies drug targets for the incurable disease.

Drug Delivery & Imaging

  • Jeffrey Bruce, MD

    • Edgar M. Housepian Professor of Neurological Surgery Research at the Columbia University Medical Center

    Adult Brain Tumors

    Dr. Bruce serves as a principle investigator of the Gabriele Bartoli Brain Tumor Lab, a multi-disciplinary translational brain tumor research effort with interests in glioma immunotherapy, tumor microenvironment, and drug delivery systems.

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  • Elisa E. Konofagou, PhD

    • Professor of Biomedical Engineering (Columbia University)
    • Professor of Radiology (Physics)

    Adult & Pediatric Brain Tumors

    The Konofagou Lab designs and applies systems of focused ultrasound to open the blood-brain barrier for efficient tumor drug delivery.

  • Cheng-Chia Wu, MD, PhD

    • Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology

    Adult & Pediatric Brain Tumors

    Through the Initiative for Drug Delivery Innovation (IDDI) laboratory, Dr. Wu uses advanced technology to enhance drug delivery to the brain with a precision medicine approach for drug selection.

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Systems Biology

  • Andrea Califano, Dr

    • Clyde '56 and Helen Wu Professor of Chemical Biology (in Systems Biology) and Professor of Biomedical Informatics and of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics (in the Institute for Cancer Genetics)
    • Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

    The Califano Lab investigates master regulator proteins that homeostatically control the transcriptional state of distinct CNS malignancy subpopulations—including for glioblastoma, meningioma, and diffuse midline gliomas—as well as the drugs capable of inverting their activity.

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  • Robyn Gartrell, MD

    • Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at CUMC

    Pediatric Brain Tumors

    The Gartrell Lab specializes in the evaluation of immune response to tumors through computational approaches as well as tissue-based spatial relationships.

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  • Jovana Pavisic, MD

    • Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

    Pediatric Brain Tumors

  • Raul Rabadan, PhD

    • Professor of Biomedical Informatics (in Systems Biology)

    Adult & Pediatric Brain Tumors

    The Rabadan Lab studies the evolution of brain tumors using genomic data.

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  • Peter A. Sims, PhD

    • Associate Professor of Systems Biology (in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and in Systems Biology)

     Adult & Pediatric Brain Tumors

    The Sims Lab develops genomic technologies and applies them to investigate cellular differentiation and drug response in malignant brain tumors.

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  • Simon Tavaré, PhD, FRS

    • Professor of Statistics and Biological Science

    Adult Brain Tumors

    The Tavare Lab develops stochastic and computational methods for understanding tumor evolution, focusing on glioblastoma and esophageal cancer.

Tumor Microenvironment & Metastasis

  • Swarnali Acharyya, PhD

    • Associate Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology (in the Institute for Cancer Genetics)

    Adult Brain Tumors

    The Acharyya Lab studies mechanisms of drug resistance and brain metastasis in lung and breast cancers.

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  • Osama Al Dalahmah, MD, PhD

    • Assistant Professor in Pathology and Cell Biology

    Adult Brain Tumors

    The Al-Dalahmah Lab investigates the interaction between glioblastoma and the tumor microenvironment including astrocytes and microglia.

  • Peter D Canoll, MD, PhD

    • Professor of Pathology & Cell Biology at CUMC

    Adult Brain Tumors

    Dr. Canoll serves as a principle investigator of the Gabriele Bartoli Brain Tumor Lab, a multi-disciplinary translational brain tumor research effort with interests in glioma immunotherapy, tumor microenvironment, and drug delivery systems.

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  • Brian Gill, MD

    • Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery at CUMC

    Adult Brain Tumors

    Dr. Gill investigates how crosstalk between brain tumors and neurons influences tumor growth, progression, and neuronal plasticity.

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  • Catherine A. Schevon, MD, PhD

    • Associate Professor of Neurology

    Adult Brain Tumors

    The Schevon Lab, in the Epilepsy and Sleep Division, investigates multi scale dynamics of focal seizures, on the scale of cellular activity and EEG.

Clinical Research

Neuro-Oncology

  • Maria Diaz Ordonez, MD

    • Assistant Professor of Neurology

    Adult Brain Tumors

    Dr. Diaz Ordonez investigates advanced imaging techniques and biomarkers to differentiate between pseudoprogression and true tumor progression in glioblastoma.

  • Laura Donovan, MD

    • Assistant Professor of Neurology at CUMC

    Adult Brain Tumors

    Dr. Donovan's research is focused on improving quality of life for people living with brain tumors.

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  • James Garvin, MD

    • Professor of Pediatrics at CUMC

    Pediatric Brain Tumors

    Dr. Garvin conducts clinical trials for treatment of childhood brain tumors, and has a particular interest in brain tumors of infants.

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  • Aya Haggiagi, MD

    • Assistant Professor of Neurology at CUMC

    Adult Brain Tumors

    Dr. Haggiagi's research interests include the development of clinical trials, precision medicine, and neurologic complications of immunotherapy.

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  • Fabio M. Iwamoto, MD

    • Associate Professor of Neurology at CUMC

    Adult Brain Tumors

    Dr. Iwamoto research interests including early and late phase clinical trials for primary brain tumors including glioblastomas, lower grade gliomas and primary CNS lymphomas.

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  • Gurcharanjeet Kaur, MD

    • Assistant Professor of Neurology

    Adult & Pediatric Brain Tumors

    Dr. Kaur's research interests are centered on the Neurofibromatosis related tumors, cancer related neurotoxicity, and tumor targeted therapy for low grade gliomas.

  • Andrew B. Lassman, MD

    • John Harris Professor of Neurology at the Columbia University Medical Center

    Adult Brain Tumors

    Dr. Lassman's research focuses on translational clinical trials for brain tumors, with molecular correlative analyses to understand the reasons for treatment success or failure and to refine treatment paradigms.

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  • Peter Chei-Way Pan, MD

    • Assistant Professor in Clinical Neurology

    Adult Brain Tumors

    Dr. Pan's research interest involve understanding the molecular underpinnings of adult brain tumors and mechanisms of treatment resistance.

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  • Luca Szalontay, MD

    • Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

    Pediatric Brain Tumors

    Dr. Szalontay's research interests lie in evaluating the efficacy of developmental therapeutics in pediatric patients who do not respond to initial treatment or experience cancer recurrence.

  • Mary R. Welch, MD

    • Associate Professor of Neurology at CUMC

    Adult Brain Tumors

    Dr. Welch's research interests center around clinical trial access, decision-making in trial enrollment, and caregiver support.

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Neurosurgery

  • Neil A Feldstein, MD

    • Professor of Neurological Surgery at CUMC

    Pediatric Brain Tumors

    Dr. Feldstein's research interests include spinal dysraphism/tethered spinal cord, craniofacial surgery, brain tumors, chiari malformations, and syringomyelia.

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  • Guy M. McKhann, MD

    • Professor of Neurological Surgery at CUMC

    Adult Brain Tumors

    Dr. McKhann investigates brain tumor immunobiology and surgical techniques to improve pateint outcomes.

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  • Michael B. Sisti, MD

    • James G. McMurtry Professor of Neurological Surgery (in Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery and in Radiation Oncology) at CUMC

    Adult Brain Tumors

    Dr. Sisti's research interests lie in evaluating emerging surgical technologies for the treatment of complex brain tumors, meningiomas, and acoustic neuromas.

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Radiation Oncology

Radiology

  • Jack Grinband, PhD

    • Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurobiology

    Adult Brain Tumors

    The Grinband Lab studies how structural and functional MRI properties are related to histological features of gliomas.

  • Angela Lignelli, MD

    • Chief, Division of Neuroradiology

    Adult & Pediatric Brain Tumors

    Dr. Lignelli's research focuses on developing non-invasive imaging markers for diagnosis/prognosis of pediatric and adult brain tumors and monitoring treatment effect

  • Alexis Maddocks, MD

    • Assistant Professor of Radiology

    Pediatric Brain Tumors

    Dr. Maddocks works to provide imaging expertise to clinical trials in pediatric brain tumors.