The Brain Tumor Center of Excellence (BTCOE) was established in 2003 to develop a comprehensive academic brain tumor program at the Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center (WFBCCC). The pre-existing foundations of excellence in both clinical care and clinical research in patients with brain tumors, and a growing research interest in the field of brain tumors and brain cancer treatment, greatly facilitated the creation of the BTCOE.
Collaborative Brain Tumor Research
The focus of the BTCOE is on improving patient care through translational research, since most brain tumors represent unmet needs in medicine. This goal is being accomplished in a highly collaborative environment that brings together basic scientists with clinical researchers and patient care providers to conduct translational brain tumor research. This translational research is a multidisciplinary effort crossing several scientific and clinical disciplines and involving all four Programs of the WFBCCC, at least seven departments and three universities. The BTCOE research priorities are represented by the thematic groups as follows:
- Clinical Research
- Modulation of Treatment-Induced Brain Injury/Cognitive Impairment/Quality of Life
- Molecular Therapeutics
- Bio-Anatomic Imaging
- Pre-Clinical Models of Disease
- Brain Metastases
- Brain Tumor Omics
BTCOE focuses on improving patient care through translational research, since many brain tumors represent unmet needs in medicine. This goal is being realized in a highly collaborative, multidisciplinary academic environment that brings together basic scientists with clinical researchers and patient care providers from seven departments and three universities to conduct translational brain tumor research—from the bench to the bedside and back to the bench.
The WFBCCC emphasizes collaboration and integration of diverse expertise for performing translational research and free scientific exploration. For information on regularly scheduled collaborative meetings, please click here:
In 2014, the research operations of the BTCOE was named the Thomas K. Hearn, Jr. Brain Tumor Research Center in honor of former Wake Forest University President Thomas K. Hearn Jr., PhD. Dr. Hearn served as Wake Forest University president from 1983-2005, during which time he helped expand brain tumor research funding.
Under the direction of Waldemar Debinski, MD, PhD, researchers at the Hearn Brain Tumor Research Center focus on finding solutions that benefit patients with brain tumors by establishing several translational research priorities, including:
- Discovery and development of new molecular anti-brain tumor therapies and their combination with other treatment modalities (Molecular Therapeutics Group).
- Understanding how radiation or other treatments may cause brain injury and how improvement in the quality of life of patients undergoing various treatments can be achieved (Modulation of Treatment-induced Brain Injury/Quality of Life Group).
- Introduction of noninvasive means to image both normal brains and brain tumors at cellular and molecular levels, including damage evoked by and in response to treatment (Bioanatomic Imaging Group).
Exploiting preclinical models offered by large animals, for example, dogs with spontaneous tumors or nonhuman primates, for studying cognitive functions (Pre-clinical Models of Disease Group, in continuously growing collaboration with Virginia Tech).
The research and clinical trials conducted in the Hearn Brain Tumor Research Center contribute to discoveries that are changing the management and treatment of patients with brain tumors.
Neuro-oncology at WFBCCC has continuously been at the forefront of clinical research. WFBCCC participated in the first therapeutic trial conducted in patients with glioblastomas in the United States. WFBCCC was the first to test the GliaSite Radiation Therapy System, one of only four new treatments approved for brain tumors in the past two decades. Stephen Tatter, MD, was the neurosurgeon who performed the first GliaSite procedure for a brain tumor patient in the U.S. In 1999, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center expanded its treatment options even further when it became the first hospital in North Carolina to offer Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery.
The BTCOE has been involved in national trials through the American Brain Tumor Consortium (ABTC), a group of academic medical centers conducting research using the most innovative and predominantly experimental therapies. In addition to ABTC and studies written and conducted at the WFBCCC, the BTCOE also participates in clinical trials sponsored by:
- Children’s Oncology Group
- American College of Surgical Oncology Group
- Radiation Therapy Oncology Group
- The Pharmaceutical Industry
The Wake Forest Gamma Knife Center is one of the busiest in the country, seeing and treating patients from throughout the Southeast region with one of the most experienced Gamma Knife treatment teams. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is nearly 90 percent successful in killing or shrinking brain tumors or stopping their growth. Gamma knife treatment does not hurt or require anesthesia. Treatment takes just one session, and patients can return to normal activities almost immediately.
Surgeons at Wake Forest have been performing Gamma Knife radiosurgery since 1999 and are one of the few medical centers funded by the National Cancer Institute to conduct brain cancer research using the world's most innovative therapies. Our current Leksell Gamma Knife® Perfexion™ machine is the most accurate and advanced radiosurgery technology available.