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By Passing the Blood Brain Barriers to Improve Drug Delivery to Tumor in the Central Nervous System

February 23–26, 2012

Chaired By

 Oren Becher, MD of Duke University
 Robert Wechsler-Reya, PhD of Sanford-Burnham Institute

Meeting Description

There is insufficient attention and research on how to circumvent the blood-brain-barrier (BBB) when in comes to the treatment of tumors in the central nervous system. There are numerous clinical trials initiated using novel agents to treat brain tumors without adequate preclinical evaluation of whether the new agents actually cross the blood-brain-barrier. The goal of the meeting is to bring together basic scientists of the blood-brain-barrier with translational physicians who treat tumors in the central nervous system to come up with new strategies to overcome the blood-brain-barrier. There was a similar meeting organized by the Forbeck foundation in 1988. Now 22 years later, it is time to reconvene a new meeting on the topic to bring forth new ideas and plans to overcome the BBB as it is still a significant obstacle. We now have improved research tools that would allow us to investigate this problem in greater depth. While there are blood-brain-barrier meetings taking place, there are very basic and do not focus on improving drug delivery for tumors located in the central nervous system. This meeting also has applications to neuroblastoma (NB) as with improved therapies, more children with NB present with recurrent neuroblastoma to the central nervous system.

The end-product of this meeting will be new collaborations and renewed focus on this challenging scientific problem with significant medical implications. A manuscript will be written up from this meeting and submitted to the Journal of Neuro-Oncology.

Meeting Summary

This year’s focus meeting was on the blood-brain-barrier took place in Santa Monica, CA from February 23rd-26th, making the second time the foundation has held a meeting on this important topic (the prior meeting on this topic was held in 1988 and was chaired by Dr. Arnold Freeman). Seventeen leading researchers, spanning five countries and three continents, came together to discuss the latest research advances on the biology of the blood-brain-barrier. The meeting centered around brainstorming together and coming up with novel approaches to bypass this barrier, which is a major impediment to drug delivery in the treatment of central nervous system diseases.

An important realization was made that there is no one standard assay to evaluate a priori whether a novel therapeutic agent will bypass the blood-brain-barrier effectively when used to treat human central nervous system diseases. Many other exciting discussions were held regarding the innovative approaches the participants of this meeting were developing to bypass the barrier. Even though this topic has been studies for some time, there were still heated debates about some of the basic principles of the blood-brain barrier, confirming the need for more basic research to develop a greater in-depth understanding of this complicated protective mechanism.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Forbeck foundation for sponsoring this focus meeting. The meeting was very much aligned with the mission of the foundation and although not all of the participants were researching the blood-brain-barrier as it pertains specifically to pediatric cancer, there is enthusiasm to move this particular field forward through the sharing of reagents and collaborations. It is our hope that future advances in the treatment of brain and spine tumors may be ignited as a result of this meeting.

Forum Participants

Oren Becher, MD
Duke University

Ingolf E. Blasig, PhD
(FMP) Forschungsverbund Berlin, e.V.

William F. Elmquist, PharmD, PhD
University of Minnesota

Gerry Grant, MD
Duke University

Eric Holland
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Damir Janigro, PhD
Lerner Research Institute


Aaron J. Johnson, PhD
Mayo Clinic

Russel Lonser, MD
National Institutes of Health 

Ruth Viola Lyck, PhD
Theodor Kocher Institut

Edward Neuwelt, MD
Oregon Health & Science University

John Ohlfest, PhD
University of Minnesota

William Pardridge, MD
UCLA

Arie Reijerkerk, PhD
VU Medical Center

Eric Shusta, PhD
University of Wisconsin

Kwang Sik Kim, MD
Johns Hopkins Medical Institute

Mark Souweidane, MD
Cornell

Danica Stanimirovic, PhD
National Research Council of Canada

Tetsuya Terasaki, PhD
Tohoku University

Robert Wechsler-Reya, PhD
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute