Brain Tumor Research

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Patients are the core of the American Brain Tumor Association research funding program. Each grant funded by the ABTA is selected because of the way it supports our mission of advancing the understanding and treatment of brain tumors with the goals of improving, extending and, ultimately, saving the lives of those impacted by a brain tumor diagnosis.


An independent, multi-level, external review process ensures that ABTA grants are awarded to the brightest and most forward-thinking researchers. Our prestigious Scientific Advisory Council and Grant Reviewers are the leadership of the brain tumor community. Many were recipients of ABTA funding earlier in their careers. Click here to see a list of our Scientific Advisory Council members and Grant Reviewers.
Through the funding of early career scientists, ABTA is seeding the field with talented, bright young investigators who have the potential to change our understanding of the causes, effects, diagnosis and treatment of brain tumors. We support innovative discovery science that is developing new drugs, new imaging techniques, and advanced methods of diagnosing brain tumors. We collaborate with other research funders, both in and out of the brain tumor field, to expand the understanding of this disease while learning from other diseases. We support research that will improve the quality of life of brain tumor survivors and their caregivers.
View ABTA's Research Program Brochure.


Research funded by the ABTA informs and influences scientists working in these fields:


New Drug Development and Repurposed Drugs
Drug development research has shifted from use of a single drug to a combination of drugs and "repurposing" drugs. Repurposing means the use of a drug developed for another disease. Among the newer, most promising approaches are variations in drugs which control blood vessel growth (angiogenesis inhibitors) when used in conjunction with chemotherapy and other treatments; drugs that block points along cell signaling pathways that support tumor growth (targeted therapies); and studies of cholesterol-lowering and heart disease medications. ABTA-funded research is also developing new classes of drugs that will interact with previously untreated parts of tumor cells.  


Targeted Therapies, Signaling Pathways, Gene Expression
Within our cells, genes create proteins and enzymes needed to carry out specific jobs. To do this, the proteins and enzymes “talk to each other,” passing job-related instructions back and forth and creating communication patterns. These patterns are called signaling pathways. If our genes produce abnormal proteins or enzymes, the result can be abnormal signaling pathways that spur brain tumor growth. Researchers are working to better understand the role these signals and targets play in the origins and growth of brain tumors. 
Personalized Medicine
Researchers are aware that brain tumor cells shed tiny bits of themselves into bodily fluids. Scientists are now working to catalogue these “biomarkers.” ABTA-funded researchers are exploring the molecular biology of tumors, the differences in tumor biology, and if more aggressive tumors have different biomarkers than less aggressive tumors. Researchers are exploring possible changes in these markers over time; their potential use in monitoring patient response to treatment; and if these biomarkers can predict response to treatment.


Researchers are combining different imaging technologies to not only improve brain tumor diagnostics, but also to aid in brain tumor surgery, visualization and treatment delivery. Today’s scanners combine CT and PET technology, or PET and MRI, along with new contrast agents that make brain tumor tissue, biomarkers, and even single cells easier to see. The science of combining imaging and treatment, called “theranostics” or "combined diagnostics" is also starting to make inroads in brain tumor treatment.
Vaccines and Immunotherapy
Unlike the preventative vaccines that we receive as children and young adults, vaccines for the treatment of brain tumors utilize altered viruses, a patient’s own white cells, engineered tumor cells, proteins, toxins, and/or antibodies to stimulate an immune response against the tumor. ABTA-funded researchers are exploring ways to increase the effectiveness of treatment by boosting the body’s immune response or by adding an immunotherapy to standard therapy.
Improving Survivorship
ABTA-funded research is exploring the benefits of rehabilitative services for brain tumor patients, the needs of brain tumor survivors and their caregivers, the financial impact of brain tumor treatment, and the long term effects of treating childhood brain tumors. 


Our currently funded research projects are listed under the "Currently Funded Research" tab. 


Braden received an ABTA Basic Research Fellowship, which allowed her pursue her interests in the brain tumor field. She thanks the donors who made her research grant possible.


Help the ABTA advance the understanding and treatment of brain tumors. Click here to make a donation.


Click here to register for our free upcoming webinar, "Immunotherapy for Brain Tumors."

Related Resources

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Funding Research and Informing Care

An overview of 2013-2014 ABTA funded research.

Funding Research and Informing Care

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An overview of 2012-2013 ABTA funded research