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Notes from the Field by Dr. Al Musella

Click to view the rest of the May 2013 Newsletter:

The Second Annual Brain Tumor Biotech Summit

VABC is presenting the Second Annual Brain Tumor Biotech Summit with the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center in New York on June 7, 2013. This unique event will highlight the most exciting brain tumor research advances and provide an opportunity for researchers and investors to meet in the same room for discussion on how to speed the process from the birth of an idea, to development, to patient treatment.

The agenda includes a variety of exciting topics which will soon impact the brain tumor community, including: new types of vaccines, viral and stem cell therapies; recent advances in tumor imaging, new treatment protocols and how venture capitalists can work with academia to get cutting edge research funded.

Check the next newsletter for a report on the highlights!

Recent Developments in the Treatment of GBMs

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), the organization that provides doctors with the standard protocol to follow when treating cancer, recently updated the guidelines for the use of Avastin to treat recurrent GBMs, with or without chemotherapy, as well as the use of the Novocure System.


Avastin slows the growth of new blood vessels and may also “normalize” the abnormal blood vessels found in brain tumors.  As tumor need a blood supply to grow, once a tumor grows to a certain size, it gets too far away from a blood vessel, and dies from a lack of nutrients. So most tumors, including GBM’s, develop a way to signal the body to produce new blood vessel,  by secreting a protein called Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which results in the formation of these new blood vessels, allowing the tumor to continue to grow. Avastin binds to the VEGF and inactivates it, which eventually cuts off the tumor’s blood supply.

Currently Avastin is FDA approved for use in recurrent GBM and NCCN protocols exist, but not enough is known about Avastin as an option for newly diagnosed patients. We’ll address this question and others at the Second Annual Brain Tumor Biotech Summit and report back.


The Novocure System, also known as “Tumor Treating Fields” or “Alternating Electric Field Therapy” was FDA approved for recurrent GBM and recently added to the NCCN guidelines as an option for recurrent GBM. This is a unique treatment: electrodes are placed on the skull delivering electric fields that can kill dividing cancer cells. Other than skin irritation there are no other side effects like nausea or lowered blood counts. There is a large clinical trial going on now to test its effectiveness for newly diagnosed GBM patients in combination with Temodar.

Read more about it at

Dr. Albert Musella, a podiatrist in private practice in Hewlett, New York, is the President of the Musella Foundation For Brain Tumor Research & Information, Inc. whose purpose is to help patients find brain tumor clinical trials, research grants, patient advocacy and brain tumor awareness. He first became interested in brain tumors when his sister-in-law was diagnosed with Glioblastoma in 1992. He is a member of the VABC Advisory Board.



Voices Against Brain Cancer is a not-for-profit public charity recognized by the IRS under 501 (c) (3)