SEATTLE, Sept. 30, 2008 – The Swedish Neuroscience Institute (SNI) has joined forces with the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) to fundraise for and collaborate on research they hope will lead to cures for diseases of the brain and nervous system. The new partnership brings together physicians, researchers and fundraisers from two of the most respected organizations in the Pacific Northwest.
Greg Foltz. M.D., SNI neurosurgeon and head of the recently opened Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment at Swedish’s Cherry Hill Campus, is jointly leading the project with Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D., ISB co-founder and president.
“This is the first time that such a large group of established researchers have been brought together from the fields of neurosurgery, neuropathology, systems biology, genomics and biostatistical analysis to address serious diseases affecting the brain, such as malignant brain tumors,” said Dr. Foltz. “Also of significance is the fact that the SNI and ISB researchers are focused solely on developing early diagnostic tools and treatment solutions for human disease rather than theoretical pursuits.”
The collaboration also brings to bear some of the most advanced research technologies that exist today.
The SNI and ISB collaboration represents a powerful strategic partnership that joins the clinical expertise of Swedish with the systems biology, technology and computational expertise of ISB,” said Dr. Hood. “This study will integrate many different types of biological information from these patients which may in time lead to a deep understanding of the kinds of brain tumors today that are inevitably fatal.”
ISB has been a global leader in the development of systems biology and the effort to identify organ-specific molecular ‘fingerprints’ in the blood that could lead to the pre-symptomatic diagnosis of disease. Diseases such as Glioblastoma (the most common and most aggressive type of primary brain tumor) are so deadly because by the time symptoms present in a patient, the disease has usually progressed to the point where a cure is not possible. In addition, researchers hope that understanding how biological networks of genes and proteins interact in brain cancer will reveal new and better targets for drug development and treatment of the disease.
One of the partnership’s first research collaborations has been the creation of a brain tumor tissue bank and associated genomic database derived from samples removed during surgery. Dr. Foltz believes the tumor bank and database provide researchers in Seattle and beyond the critical resources they need to further their research into slowing or stopping the growth of malignant brain tumors. “One thing that’s made learning about these tumors difficult is that there are few patients at any one center and the tumors progress so rapidly without treatment. With the tissue bank and associated genomic database, we are establishing the foundation for one of the largest brain tumor research projects in the country,” said Dr. Foltz. “It’s a project with a mission to help not only patients in the future, but also those currently affected and whose tumors are now being so carefully studied.”
The Institute for Systems Biology, founded in 2000, integrates such sciences as biology, chemistry, physics, computation, mathematics and medicine. “Systems biology is the science of discovering, modeling, understanding and ultimately engineering at the molecular level the dynamic relationships between the biological molecules that define living organisms,” said Dr. Hood. “System-based approaches to diseases such as Glioblastoma afford powerful new opportunities for bringing this disease under control.”
“This new partnership between the SNI and ISB represents the future of medicine,” says Dr. Foltz. “As a physician whose primary concern is my patients, it’s inspiring to see scientists working so hard to find a way to help them. Especially encouraging is the fact that this collaboration will bring together researchers from different backgrounds who will be working in concert to attack the most difficult problems in disorders of the brain.”
“We had a very strong program before this collaboration,” Dr. Foltz added. “But, ISB’s inclusion in this effort puts some of the best scientific minds in the world to work on behalf of our patients.”
For his part, Dr. Foltz has recently developed a way to analyze brain tumor patients’ blood and look for certain ‘markers’ that can help determine the best course of chemotherapy for their particular type of tumor. While there is still a long way to go, the early results look promising not only for brain tumors, but for other types of diseases as well. Additionally, the knowledge gained from the brain tissue bank may shed light on the causes and possible cures for other neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and strokes now affecting aging baby boomers in ever greater numbers.
About Swedish Medical Center
Swedish Medical Center is the largest, most comprehensive, nonprofit health-care provider in the Greater Seattle area. It is comprised of three hospital campuses (First Hill, Cherry Hill and Ballard), a freestanding emergency room and specialty center in Issaquah, Swedish Home Care Services and Swedish Physicians – a network of 12 primary-care clinics. In addition to general medical and surgical care, Swedish is known as a regional referral center, providing specialized treatment in areas such as neurological care, cardiovascular care, oncology, orthopedics, high-risk obstetrics, pediatrics, organ transplantation and clinical research. For more information, visit www.swedish.org
About the Swedish Neuroscience Institute
In 2004, Swedish Medical Center expanded its neuroscience services by establishing the Swedish Neuroscience Institute. The team of leading neurosurgeons and other specialists are building a world-class institute dedicated solely to the treatment and advancement of neurological disorders for patients in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. The Swedish/Cherry Hill Campus is the hub for the Institute and has been upgraded with four state-of-the-art operating rooms with intra-operative MRI and CT scanning, neuro-interventional radiology capabilities, a renovated neuro intensive-care unit, and a CyberKnife® facility for radiosurgical treatment of tumors throughout the body. SNI specializes in the research for and treatment of stroke; cerebral aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations; movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and tremors; brain tumors (including both malignant tumors and benign tumors such as meningiomas); neuro-endocrine disorders including pituitary tumors; epilepsy; child neurological disorders; neuro-ophthalmology; headaches; multiple sclerosis and many other neurological conditions and diseases. In each category, physicians from different specialties are brought together to provide a multi-disciplinary approach centered on providing top-notch patient care.
About the Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment
Founded in 2008, the Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment gives brain-tumor patients and their families access to:
• A multi-disciplinary team of skilled neurosurgeons, oncologists, radiologists and a specialized nursing staff to deliver coordinated care and innovative treatments.
• An integrated care coordinator who serves as a patient advocate and liaison
• Access to clinical trials that offer patients early and timely access to investigational drugs and treatments
• Promising new therapies that use gene-sequencing technologies to identify customized treatment options
• A comprehensive brain tumor research laboratory that provides rapid genetic analysis of brain tumors
Funding for the Center has been lead by a recent $2 million donation by the David and Sandra Sabey family, which was announced May 31, 2008 at Swedish’s annual auction, Celebrate Swedish. A total of $3.3 million was then raised in support of the Center during the auction’s ‘Fund-A-Need’ program. Earlier this summer, the Center then hosted a first-year event – the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk (www.braincancerwalk.org) – to increase awareness about the cause and raise money for the Center and its related work.
About the Institute for Systems Biology
The Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) is an internationally renowned, non-profit research institute headquartered in Seattle and dedicated to the study and application of systems biology. Founded by Leroy Hood, Alan Aderem and Ruedi Aebersold, ISB seeks to unravel the mysteries of human biology and identify strategies for predicting and preventing diseases such as cancer, diabetes and AIDS. ISB’s systems approach integrates biology, computation and technological development, enabling scientists to analyze all elements in a biological system rather than one gene or protein at a time. Founded in 2000, the Institute has grown to 14 faculty and more than 230 staff members, an annual budget of more than $30 million, and an extensive network of academic and industrial partners. For more information about ISB, visit www.systemsbiology.org
- To read a related article posted on the Xconomy/Seattle Web site, click here.