Molecular Medicine Grad Authors Major Brain Cancer Publication

Alvaro Alvarado, PhD, a recent graduate of Lerner Research Institute's Molecular Medicine PhD program, has authored an important publication in Cell Stem Cell that uncovers how brain tumors are able to resist treatment.

Together with his mentor, Justin Lathia, PhD, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Dr. Alvarado found that glioblastoma stem cells express a lower level of toll-like immune receptor 4 (TLR4), an important protein that interacts with the immune system to inhibit cancer growth. With lower levels of TLR4, the cancer stem cells are not marked for destruction by the immune system—they continue to proliferate unchecked, even in the presence of anti-cancer drugs.

With this new understanding, Dr. Lathia’s laboratory will screen various drugs in an attempt to sensitize glioblastoma stem cells to their environment and make them easier to kill. Since glioblastoma is the most aggressive and lethal type of brain cancer, these discoveries could lead to prolonged lives for patients with the disease.

Lerner Research Institute’s Molecular Medicine program is a unique biomedical graduate program that integrates traditional research training with clinical knowledge and experiences. After graduation, Dr. Alvardo went on to the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, where he is completing postdoctoral training.

This groundbreaking project was funded entirely through philanthropic support—Sontag Foundation, Blast Glioblastoma and Cleveland Clinic’s VeloSano Bike to Cure program.

Read more in Consult QD.