Funded Research

MRI-guided Laser Heat Ablation to Induce Blood Brain Barrier Breakdown in Pediatric Brain Tumors
Principal Investigator(s):
  • Karen Gauvain, M.D. Pediatrics
  • David Limbrick, M.D., Ph.D. Neurosurgery
  • McDonnell Pediatric Cancer Center
Award Mechanism:
Interdisciplinary Research Initiative
Project Period:
2/1/2016 - 1/31/2020
Total Amount:

Project Summary
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided laser ablation (MLA) is a minimally invasive laser surgery designed for the treatment of surgically inoperable brain tumors. One challenge to treating brain tumors is the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which separates circulating blood from the fluid of the nervous system, preventing chemotherapy drugs from penetrating the brain. In adults, MLA disrupts the BBB, allowing for better penetration of chemotherapy drugs into the tumor. The purpose of this study is to examine the outcomes of pediatric patients with newly diagnosed and recurrent brain tumors who are treated with MLA and chemotherapy. The study will also test whether MLA’s therapeutic effects are due to enhanced infiltration of immune cells into brain tumors as a result of BBB disruption.

Specific aims
• Use serum biomarkers and advanced MRI techniques to identify the time window of maximal BBB disruption after MLA for optimal chemotherapeutic effects in children.

• Determine the progression-free survival and overall survival of children undergoing MLA plus chemotherapy versus standard chemotherapy alone.

• Determine whether the anti-tumor immune response is enhanced following MLA.

Potential impact on child health

This study could pave the way for novel therapeutic approaches that synergize MLA with chemotherapy to improve the prognosis of difficult-to-treat pediatric brain tumors.

Josh Rubin, M.D., Ph.D. and Eric Leuthardt, M.D.