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Local Scientist Awarded $1.8 Million for Brain Tumor Research

Oct 30, 2017 08:50AM ● By Digital Media Director

Haotian Zhao

Sanford brain cancer researcher Haotian Zhao has been awarded a $1.8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to spend the next five years looking for new ways to treat childhood brain tumors.

Malignant choroid plexus tumors are poorly understood and can be deadly. The grant, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will be used to investigate how the molecular circuit of these tumors interacts with signaling pathways as tumors are formed.

Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are the current treatments to target these tumors. The study will look for other, less debilitating therapies, such as using molecular targeted therapies instead.

“My hope is to better understand how these tumors form and how best to target them,” Zhao said. “The current treatments often aren’t successful, and when they are, they still have devastating side effects.”

The choroid plexus lines the ventricles of the brain and produces cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes and cushions the brain. This group of tumors, which are caused by production of too many choroid plexus cells, comprises about 15 percent of all brain tumors diagnosed in children in the first year of life, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. In the past 30 years, little improvement has been made in the prognosis or treatment of these tumors.

Zhao is an assistant scientist with the Pediatric and Rare Diseases Group at Sanford and assistant professor at of pediatrics at the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota.