CBTN Investigators Join the International Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Community for ISPNO 2020

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Jonathan Waller

Since its first meeting in Tokyo, Japan in 1986, the International Society for Pediatric Neuro-Oncology (ISPNO) has been considered one of the world’s most distinguished meetings of researchers and clinicians specializing in the field of pediatric neuro-oncology. ISPNO provides a space for the sharing of research findings, presentations, and symposia covering nearly all angles of research and treatment for children and young adults with brain/CNS cancers, including diagnosis, clinical trials, novel treatment, basic and translational research, neuro-radiology, psychology, quality of life, nursing and patients’ care.

Rescheduled from its original dates in June, ISPNO 2020 is held in Karuizama, Japan from December 13-16. Due to necessary precautions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, ISPNO has adapted by incorporating both in-person and online opportunities for attendance and participation.

Children’s Brain Tumor Network (CBTN) investigators from nearly all of our 25 member sites will join this global community of experts in childhood brain cancer to engage in the sharing of research and new perspectives. In addition, CBTN will give several presentations and abstracts to share our research methodology and recent discoveries.

All presentations and abstracts will be recorded and archived for access by ISPNO registrants from December 14, 2020 to February 13, 2021.

The Gift from a Child Program

For this year’s ISPNO meeting, CBTN is proud to report on our partnership with the Gift from a Child (GFAC) program. GFAC was inspired by the dream of one child to donate his brain for research, recognizing the need to study tumor tissue collected at diagnosis, recurrence, and at the time of death. Founded by the Swifty Foundation in 2016, GFAC currently comprises five “Centers of Excellence” at institutions with expertise in pediatric neuro-oncology. Partnering with the Children’s Brain Tumor Network, the program’s mandate is two-fold: make it possible for families to donate no matter where they live in the United States and make tissue available to scientists globally to empower discovery.

In order to overcome barriers that have stifled postmortem collection in the past, GFAC has invested in Tissue Navigators - individuals at each center who coordinate all aspects of donation and communicate with families, medical providers, and laboratory scientists. In 2019 alone, GFAC coordinated 55 autopsy collections from multiple diagnoses.

A key metric of the program is also capturing the global sharing and usage of each tissue sample, ensuring that tissue isn’t simply “banked” but is actively being actively used to help unravel tumor biology. To date, tissue has been used for genomic and molecular data generation, preclinical model development including cell lines and PDX models, and for novel drug screening.

Together with Children’s Brain Tumor Network, the Gift from a Child program is helping to ensure the most precious gift that a family can make is used to accelerate the path to cures.

CBTN Research Update

The CBTN will also present on our expanded mission and evolution from the CBTTC to the Children’s Brain Tumor Network. Launching in 2011 as the Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium, our objective was to utilize a regulatory, agreement, and governance architecture to remove existing research barriers that slowed down the pace of research and collaboration. Our network now includes 25 institutions working together to empower research.

As of December 2020, over 3,600 subjects have been enrolled resulting in collection of over 45,000 specimens. Clinical data collection is longitudinal and includes medical history, diagnosis, treatment, pathology slides and reports, radiology imaging and reports, and outcome data. The tissue is collected flash-frozen, in freezing media, and fresh for the generation of pre-clinical models including cell lines. Blood is collected from the subject, with blood or saliva collected from the parents for germline comparison.

Additionally, the CBTN’s Pediatric Brain Tumor Atlas has generated 952 WGS and RNAseq, 221 proteomics, with annotated clinical data. All of this data, both generated raw and processed data, has been made available broadly to the scientific community via cloud-based platforms, including the Gabriella Miller Kids First Data Resource Portal, Cavatica, and PedcBioPortal.

At the close of 2020, we have 69 approved biospecimen research projects and 119 genomic/molecular data projects.

Supporting Additional Perspectives

Finally, on December 16, CBTN is sponsoring a keynote presentation on the topics of Preclinical Models, Experimental Therapy, and Drug Discovery. Presented by investigator Ching Lau, MD, PhD of Connecticut Children's Hospital and the Jackson Laboratory, the keynote will highlight in silico drug screening and system biology approach in drug repurposing.

The field of pediatric neuro-oncology has seen an explosion of new developments in the last decade. CBTN is excited to be at the forefront of these advancements, and to join the global community of experts at ISPNO to work together towards the next steps.

As the CBTN continues our focus on new areas of investigation, we look forward to growing our partnerships and research efforts to cure pediatric brain tumors through innovation, resource sharing, a commitment to global inclusion, and, most critically, through the translation of data into new clinical trials and increased clinical impact.

Through this expanded mission, we are determined to uncover more effective and less toxic therapies to benefit TODAY’s children. As we continue onward to accelerate pediatric brain cancer research, CBTN remains resolute in our commitment to doing so through a team-science model that draws on the talent, resources, and knowledge of a global community. Learn more about our projects and request resources at cbtn.org/projects.