NIH Director’s Pioneer Award Bestowed on Weill Cornell Researcher

Dr. Howard A. Fine

Dr. Howard A. Fine

In October 2017, renowned neuro-oncologist Howard A. Fine, MD, Director of the Brain Tumor Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell and Associate Director for Translational Research at the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, was awarded a five-year, $6 million National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award for brain cancer research. This is the first Pioneer Award received by Weill Cornell Medicine and complements the productive brain cancer research program at the Meyer Cancer Center and the Brain Tumor Center.

The Pioneer Award will allow Dr. Fine and his Weill Cornell colleagues to pursue a brain cancer modeling strategy that represents a bold departure from traditional approaches, which may lead to new and more effective treatments and therapies for patients. The researchers have been using advanced stem cell techniques to grow large clusters of cerebral organoids in the laboratory. Cerebral organoids, with their brain-like environments, have enabled them to model brain cancers more accurately on the molecular level. With support from the NIH award, Dr. Fine and his team are now working to enhance the realism of their organoid models by adding two vital components: blood vessels with key properties of cerebral vessels and immune cells that normally reside in or can enter the brain.

Recent research from Dr. Fine and others has found that glioblastoma tumors typically harbor genetic mutations that differ from patient to patient and offer no obvious common target for therapies. Part of his organoid-based research will involve the development of personalized brain cancer models using cerebral organoids derived from the cells of patients, which may lead to the development of precision medicine treatment strategies.