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Joining Forces for Brain Tumor Research

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Science  01 Jul 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5731, pp. 32
DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5731.32b

Frustrated by the sluggish pace of brain tumor research and the often dismal prognosis for those afflicted, eight brain tumor nonprofits* in the United States and Canada are pooling up to $6 million total to finance risky, innovative research projects, potentially including mathematical modeling and studies of neural development and stem cells. The effort announced this week, called the Brain Tumor Funding Collaborative, is unusual in the disease advocacy world, where organizations in the same disease area are typically rivals competing aggressively for donations.

Here, however, several foundations tentatively began discussing 2 years ago how to fuel brain tumor research. Roughly 41,000 people are diagnosed with brain tumors in the United States each year, and just under half of those tumors are malignant.

“We really want to break out of the traditional mold,” says Susan Weiner, whose child died of a brain tumor. A cognitive psychologist and vice president for grants at the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation, Weiner notes that each of the eight groups had “to understand that you can't do it by yourself.” Each has pledged a certain amount (they decline to say how much) which will enable the collaborative to offer much larger individual grants—up to $600,000 per year—than each typically funds. They will begin accepting initial proposals in August and hope to announce the first awards in January.

Brain cancer research is notoriously difficult, in part because the blood-brain barrier prevents easy access and because there's no good rodent model, says Susan Fitzpatrick, a neuroscientist and vice president of the McDonnell Foundation, another participant. But advances in genomics have begun to clarify brain cancer biology, leaving the collaborative hopeful that its effort, exceedingly challenging to pull together, says Fitzpatrick, will pay off.

  • * The American Brain Tumor Association, the Brain Tumor Foundation of Canada, the Brain Tumor Society, the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation, the Goldhirsh Foundation, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the National Brain Tumor Foundation, and the Sontag Foundation.

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