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Darell Bigner

Edwin L. Jones, Jr. and Lucille Finch Jones Cancer Research Professor
Research Interest: 
Research Summary: 
Neuro-oncology; cancer genomics; cancer immunology; immunotoxins
Research Description: 

My laboratory is the lead laboratory in the Neuro-Oncology Program of the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center. The Neuro-Oncology Program is one program that bridges the gap between basic and clinical sciences. The goals of my laboratory are to study basic mechanisms of neoplastic transformation and mechanisms of altered growth control in malignant brain tumors and tumors that metastasize to the brain and spinal cord. The members of the Program do preclinical studies to define ways to translate their basic findings into better methods of diagnosis and treatment.

Primary activities that take place in the Neuro-Oncology Program include the following: a systemic cytogenetic study of common brain tumors, ongoing studies of childhood gliomas and ependymomas, in depth study and identification of many of the amplified oncogenes in nervous system tumors. Based upon information from the cytogenetic studies, we are now seeking the presence of new suppressor genes on chromosome 10 in adult human gliomas.

Our laboratory has had a long interest in the use of monoclonal antibodies for targeted therapy. The most well developed is an antibody against parts of the tenascin extracellular matrix molecule, which is present on most primary brain tumors and many metastatic tumors but not on normal brain. This antibody is presently in Phase I clinical trial and yielding promising results. Molecular genetic engineering to produce smaller antibody fragments is being employed.

The third major research area in the program is one of new drug discovery and mechanisms of drug resistance. In this program several new drugs not previously known to be active against central nervous system tumors have been discovered and are currently in Phase I trial, both for neoplastic meningitis and for intra-arterial therapy to intra-cranial neoplasms. Future major program focuses will be in applying many of the findings of basic research to pre-clinical and clinical work in gene therapy and tumor vaccines.