From Brain Tumor Research to Patient Care: Q&A with Dr. Brian Rood

Dr. Brian Rood with Jack Miller, NeuroOncology

Brian Rood, MD is the Director of Clinical Neuro-Oncology within our Brain Tumor Institute, a collaborative program dedicated to developing innovative approaches to treating patients with brain tumors. The institute evaluates more than 100 new patients with brain tumors every year and provides continuing care for hundreds of others. We sat down with Dr. Rood to discuss the Brain Tumor Institute and its role in the hospital and approaches to treatment.

Q. Talk a little bit about the Brain Tumor Institute. What’s your function as a part of the hospital, what’s your mission?

A. The Brain Tumor Institute is defined by the concept of improving survival and quality life for all brain tumor patients. That’s the mission that unifies us across research and clinical practice.

We are a multidisciplinary team focused on improving care through the conduct of research, and our operations cut across all active specialties relating to brain tumors: Neurosurgery, radiology, pathology, endocrinology, neuro-ophthalmology, rehabilitation, psychology, nutrition, oncology, neurology, as well as clinical and bench research. So we’re a very collaborative team, looking at ways to treat brain tumors from all angles, which is quite unique in a hospital.

Q. Why do you think this type of team is so important at Children’s?

A. There’s still a lot to be learned when it comes to treating pediatric brain tumors. We have a number of standard treatment protocols in place, but we know that what works for one patient might not necessarily work for another. That’s where our expertise comes in – to develop cutting-edge approaches to treatment that accommodate the specific medical needs of each of our patients. Clinical research is very much an important part of the Brain Tumor Institute – it’s our leading strength. And our research informs the treatments that are provided throughout the hospital. When you bring your child to Children’s, you know the treatment is going to be both innovative and backed by results-driven research.

Q. Give us a few examples of how your work with the institute affects patient treatment at Children’s?

A. Well, for one thing, we have extensive access to clinical trials, which is huge. We are a very active research organization – one of the most active in the country. We’re members of many consortia, collaborating on innovative research ranging from early phase investigation to developing complex multi-agent protocols. Our involvement in these consortia means that many of our patients get access to trials that aren’t available at other hospitals. That’s extremely important for the families that come here. You never know when your child might need that kind of access.

But more generally, having a research institute that sits right on top of the hospital puts our research very close to the physicians. That means the whole team is familiar with the cutting edge. We know where the field is going, and that allows us to approach treatment more strategically. We look at each individual patient and make educated decisions based on the wide breadth of knowledge at our disposal. In addition, we’re really dedicated to improving our patients’ quality of life by reducing long-term effects.

Q. Could you tell me about some of the most innovative work that the Brain Tumor Institute is undertaking right now?

A. Sure. We often use human tumor cells to create a model of the disease in order to better understand an individual tumor’s biology and treatments linked to our patients’ specific needs. In this way we learn more from every patient we treat.

We’re also very interested in researching how proteomics can be used to better understand and ultimately treat brain tumors, which is a very new line of study where we are leading the field.

And then we also conduct extensive tumor tissue collection for those families that wish it, in depth genomic research, and studies around testing repurposed drugs that are typically used for other diseases to see if they have any anti-cancer properties.

Q. What do you enjoy most about working with a team like this?

A. The amount of experience that this team brings to the table is really incredible. Between the five leading oncology and neurology clinicians on the team, we have about 80 years of experience. The same can be said for our neurosurgery group. That type of experience makes for an amazing, collaborative team. We all work very closely with each other, which allows us to approach each patient from a number of different angles. All of our recommendations are discussed as a group. Everyone brings their own perspectives, which makes for a collaborative approach to treatment design.

I would say that sense of collaboration with a really smart, experienced team is my favorite thing about working with the Brain Tumor Institute. I can’t tell you how important that is. Having a team that is really good at what they do creates a really strong support system that allows me to do my own job much better. We just work really well together. However, the most important members of our team are the patients and their parents. The expertise and values they bring are the critical components of practicing good medicine and healing our children.