Since initiating my participation in the Children’s Brain Tumor Network (CBTN) as a neuro-oncologist interested in translational research, I’ve been repeatedly astounded at what this global network can accomplish through one simple creed – to put ego and self-interest aside so that improved treatments can be delivered to children in desperate need, as quickly as possible. Truly, this ideology sounds so simple that it should be not only the obvious, but the only approach to our collective fight against pediatric brain and spinal cord tumors. But it bears repeating how utterly revolutionary it was when this effort first began in 2011.
Rather than sticking to established scientific and academic norms of the time, which emphasized the careful guarding of resources, data, and discoveries until an individual investigator can publish – thus receiving all the credit, recognition, and professional opportunities that ideally follow the completion of new research – the small collection of pediatric research hospitals and foundations that formed what was previously known as the Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium sought to break all the rules. What followed was truly extraordinary.
From a small nucleus of just four institutions within the United States, the CBTN has since surpassed over 30 top-tier research hospitals spanning four continents across the globe. It has enabled the launch of hundreds of new research projects through the unfettered sharing of data and biospecimens. And it has fostered the development of innovative analysis platforms and collaboration frameworks that are setting new standards for how experts, funders, patients, and leaders can work together to advance progress in pediatric brain tumor research and treatment.
Since 2018, I’ve had the distinct privilege to serve as Co-Chair of the CBTN Executive Board. And in that amount of time, the feelings of admiration and appreciation that I have for this heroic and pioneering enterprise have only grown deeper.
From establishing CBTN’s Clinical Data Working Group, to expanding CBTN’s partnership with the Pacific Pediatric Neuro Oncology Consortium (PNOC) and with Gift from a Child, I’ve seen first-hand the kind of progress that can be made when embracing this network’s ethos of open science and cross-disciplinary collaboration.
Taking to heart CBTN’s commitment to serving every child, everywhere, I’ve been honored to work with doctors, families, community leaders, advocates, and experts in expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion across patient and research communities throughout this global consortium.
And by working with CBTN’s leadership to foster new and expanded partnerships across the National Cancer Institute, industry, and foundations, I’m thrilled by the exponential growth that we are currently seeing. This of course includes the launch of Project Accelerate for the molecular profiling of the remainder of all research subjects within the CBTN biobank – comprising more than 7,200 biospecimens – to significantly increase the size and scale of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Atlas (PBTA) and empower translational research for scientists worldwide, toward making individualized treatment strategies a reality for all children with brain tumors.
I know it’s unusual, but I elected to step down from my role as CBTN Executive Board Co-Chair not because I see my role in CBTN becoming less but more so I could focus my future efforts in clinical research. My belief in CBTN and determination to support its continued growth remains as strong as ever. Currently completing an additional master’s degree program in Healthcare Analytics, I anticipate utilizing valuable new skills and expertise to continue advancing the work of the Clinical Data Working Group, the CBTN/PNOC Working Groups, and the many other promising new avenues for discovery that will soon emerge from the explosive growth of the PBTA through Project Accelerate.
With humblest gratitude, I thank each and every member of the Children’s Brain Tumor Network for your support and your belief in our collective mission on behalf of children. I join you in keen anticipation for all that is soon to come.
Angela Waanders, MD, MPH
Director, Precision Medicine Oncology
Interim Section Head, Pediatric Neuro-Oncology
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago