Glioblastoma Multiforme Translational Center of Excellence

Brain tumor

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common form of malignant brain cancer, representing just over 15 percent of all primary brain tumors, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. Approximately 15,000 new cases of glioblastoma are diagnosed every year, with average survival rates in the 15-to-18-month time frame.

Senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain, Beau Biden (son of Vice President Joe Biden), and three-time MLB All-Star, Darren Daulton, all died of this very same form of aggressive brain cancer.

Glioblastoma is such a devastating cancer type because the tumor mixes with normal brain tissue, significantly increasing the difficulty in treating. Over the past 20 years, few advances in treatment have been realized.

Revolutionizing Treatment for Glioblastoma

Penn Medicine’s newest Translational Center of Excellence (TCE) in the Abramson Cancer Center is focused on GBM and represents an opportunity to revolutionize treatment. Penn Medicine has been leading the way in research on glioblastoma, ushering in the new era of cellular therapies that treat cancer with a patient’s own immune system. 

The GBM TCE team will investigate new innovative immune therapies and, in particular, design and test new CAR-T therapies alone or in combination with other immuno-oncology approaches.

The goal is to develop integrated scientific approaches with an interdisciplinary team of experts who will lead a large portfolio of targeted cellular immunotherapies that will be used in new trials at Penn and across other institutions to advance patient care for GBM. The hope is that the many novel treatment approaches and clinical trials will eventually lead to longer life expectancy for patients. 

A major emphasis of the TCE will be placed on the generation of animal models, on the development and optimization of a GBM clinical trial pipeline, and novel combination approaches in radiation therapy. The following are the six pillars of the GBM TCE:

  1. Antibody discovery platform
  2. T-cell engineering
  3. Disease models
  4. Tumor microenvironment
  5. Preclinical optimization
  6. Clinical trials

The overlying goal of the TCE is to create a pipeline of new clinical trials to be used in the care of GBM patients.

Bringing Together Experts from Diverse Fields

The Penn Medicine team is an international leader in researching and treating glioblastoma. The world’s first gene-based cancer therapy, immunotherapy—or CAR-T cell therapy—is being heralded as a game-changer in the treatment of aggressive cancers like glioblastoma.

This TCE team will investigate new innovative immune therapies and, in particular, design and test new CAR-T therapies alone or in combination with other immuno-oncology approaches. 

Led by Donald O'Rourke, MD (John Templeton, Jr., MD Associate Professorship in Neurosurgery), the GBM TCE team includes investigators from:

The research will take advantage of cores available through the Abramson Cancer Center, including the Human Brain Tumor Tissue Bank under the scientific direction of Zev Binder, MD, PhD.

GBM TCE Core Team

Donald M. O’Rourke, MD
Director, ACC Translational Center of Excellence in Glioblastoma 
John Templeton, Jr., MD Associate Professorship in Neurosurgery

Michael Milone, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Donald Siegel, MD, PhD
Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Director, Division of Transfusion Medicine and Therapeutic Pathology
Director, Clinical Cell and Vaccine Production Facility (CVPF)

E. John Wherry, PhD
Chair, Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics 
Director, Institute for Immunology
Professor of Pharmacology

Daniel Powell Jr, PhD
Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Director, Cellular Therapy Tissue Facility
Director of Education, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy 

Gerald Linette, MD, PhD
Professor of Medicine
Clinical Director, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy

Yi Fan, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology

Nicola Mason, BVetMed, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine & Pathobiology
University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine

Avery Posey, PhD
Clinical Instructor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Zev Binder, MD, PhD
Instructor, O’Rourke Laboratory, Department of Neurosurgery

Hongjun Song, PhD
Perelman Professor of Neuroscience

Steven Brem, MD
Professor of Neurosurgery

Stephen Bagley, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine

Arati Desai, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine

MacLean Nasrallah, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Clinical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

J. Jos Melenhorst, PhD
Adjunct Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Glioblastoma Clinical Trials

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