Understanding Genetic Mutations and Molecular Pathways of Brain Metastises to Enable Patient-Tailored Therapies

Priscilla Brastianos, MD
Priscilla Brastianos, MD
Terry and Jean de Gunzburg MGH Research Scholar 2021-2026
Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital
Mass General Cancer Center
Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School

Every year, approximately 300,000 patients in the U.S. are diagnosed with devastating brain metastases—cancer that has spread to the brain from other tumors in the body. Patients with breast cancer, melanoma and lung cancer, are particularly at high risk.

While advances in therapies have improved our ability to control cancer outside of the brain, more cancer patients are dying of brain metastases. Currently, most patients with brain metastasis die within a year of their initial diagnosis. They suffer terribly; headaches, paralysis, blindness and seizures are common effects. Patients face very limited options in alleviating their ordeal.

Our goal is to identify therapeutic opportunities for patients with brain metastases. We have now established a Brain Metastasis Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. Through innovative science, we found therapeutic targets in brain metastases that we have translated to clinical trials.

With the MGH Research Scholar award, we will build upon this work. We will advance our understanding of the genetic mutations and molecular pathways that drive brain metastases using cutting-edge genomic technology and an extensive tissue collection of >1000 brain metastases samples. Identification of these mutations or pathways could help identify those cancer patients most likely to develop brain metastases, enabling more patient-tailored management.