Neuro-Oncology

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Burt Nabors, M.D.
– Leader

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G. Yancey Gillespie, Ph.D.
– Co-Leader

Overview:

The mission of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Neuro-Oncology (NO) Program is to consistently translate contemporary research discoveries to safe and efficacious therapies for adult and pediatric patients with brain cancer. The Program is a multi-disciplinary program whose members represent a broad variety of research interests of relevance to the care of patients with primary and metastatic brain tumors.  Over the last 28-plus years, the Program has become distinguished by: (1) Development of access for a large number of patients with primary brain tumors through a well-developed referral network; (2) A very active brain tumor-dedicated interdisciplinary clinical team; (3) Extensive clinical and laboratory resources; (4) Significant extramural support for basic, translational, and clinical research as well as a number of pharmaceutical industry-academia contracts for support of neuro oncology research on campus; and (5) Nationally recognized expertise in conducting institutional and cooperative Phase I and II clinical trials, utilizing agents developed through translational activities of the program.  During the current funding period, the NO Program has been led by L. Burt Nabors, M.D., and G. Yancey Gillespie, Ph.D., and has contributed several seminal discoveries that have, or will, lead to human endpoints that could improve outcomes for patients with neuroglial malignancies.

The program is a charter member of the Adult Brain Tumor Consortium (ABTC), the only NCI-funded adult brain tumor clinical consortium. Dr. Nabors is a Co-PI of this consortium and also serves as Chair for the Central Nervous System Cancers Committee of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) that establishes evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for care and management of patients with CNS malignancies.  Both Adult and Pediatric Neuro-Oncology are represented in the program and the pediatric Neuro-oncology physician-scientist, Alyssa T. Reddy, M.D.,  fills a leadership role in the Pediatric Brain Tumor Committee of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG).

The primary scientific interests and programmatic objectives of the NO Program are:

  1. To examine the cellular and molecular biology of human primary neuroglial malignancies and their resultant cellular behaviors responsible for morbidity and mortality in patients;
  2. To incorporate basic science observations of primary neuroglial tumor biology into translational research that can directly lead to development of new diagnostic, prognostic (biomarker) or therapeutic clinical protocols for primary, recurrent or metastatic brain tumors;
  3. To provide the highest level of clinical care for patients with nervous system cancers and conduct innovative, investigator-initiated clinical trials in neuro-oncology;
  4. To ensure that patients in the catchment area are served and that differences in the behavior of therapeutic responsiveness of primary neuroglial tumors in African American patients are identified and addressed.
  5. To educate physicians and scientists interested in brain tumor biology and treatment.

Click here for a complete list of Neuro-Oncology Program Members

Leadership:

L. Burt Nabors, M.D., received his M.D. degree from the University of Tennessee in Memphis in 1991 and interned at the National Naval Medical Center before serving as a Flight Surgeon in the US Navy for 3 years. He completed a residency in Neurology at UAB in 1998 and a fellowship in Neuro-oncology in 1999 under the direction of Dr. Steven S. Rosenfeld. He joined the Neuro-Oncology Program in 1999 as an Assistant Professor of Neurology and assumed the position of Program Leader in 2005. He is board-certified in Neurology and holds medical licensure in Alabama. In 2003, he assumed the role as Principal Investigator of the U01 grant (U01 CA76607) to allow UAB to participate in the New Approaches to Brain Tumor Therapy (NABTT) Consortium through a competitive NCI funding mechanism, and successfully obtained continued re-funding in the competitive renewal. He has served as PI of numerous protocols approved and administered through NABTT. Under his direction, UAB has become one of the lead accruers to NABTT clinical protocols winning accrual awards in 4 of the last 6 periods. He has been successful in obtaining additional funding through the R21 Quick Trials program to obtain and analyze correlative biologic information in a Phase I trial of an anti-angiogenic drug, EMD121974, Cilengitide.

During his tenure as Program Leader, the Neuro-Oncology Program was admitted as a charter member of the consolidated Adult Brain Tumor Consortium as a result of his leadership activities in the Novel Approaches to Brain Tumor Therapy (NABTT) consortium supported by a NCI funding mechanism (U01 CA076607), which was successfully continued as a result of a recent competitive renewal.  During Dr. Nabor’s tenure, 5 additional members of the Program have been recruited (including two neuro-oncologists who are clinician-investigators) and further recruitments are being planned through combined efforts of the Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Brain SPORE.  Dr. Nabors serves as Director of the PCIR (Participant and Clinical Interaction Resource) of the CCTS.  He provides oversight and direction for space and nursing needs to complete early phase clinical investigations on the campus as a whole. In this capacity, he serves as a member of the Nascent Panel committee, which provides guidance, advise, and direction for junior faculty developing translational research careers.

Yancey Gillespie, Ph.D., received his Ph.D. degree in Tumor Immunology and Immunochemistry from the University of Mississippi in 1971 and completed a F32 postdoctoral fellowship under the direction of Dr. Rolf Barth at Kansas University Medical Center. He served on the staff at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation with Drs. Stephen Russell and Charles Cochrane and joined Dr. Stephen Mahaley in the Division of Neurosurgery at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1979. In 1987, he and Dr. Mahaley established the UAB Brain Tumor Treatment and Research Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham which is now the Neuro-Oncology Program within the CCC. Dr. Gillespie has served as Co-Director of several Program Project type grants, including the P20 Brain Tumor planning grant (NS031096), the Brain Tumor Center grant (P01 NS034856), the Herpes Virus Program Project (P01 CA071933) and the UAB Brain SPORE (P50 CA097247) and is currently serving as Director of the Brain SPORE at UAB.

Dr. Gillespie has a wide range of basic science, translational and clinical research experiences, considerable administrative experience and has a long history of productive collaboration with many of the members of the current Neuro-Oncology Program. He is well-qualified to provide scientific and administrative leadership for present and future endeavors of the brain tumor investigators within UAB and the Comprehensive Cancer Center. Through the support mechanism of the SPORE, Dr. Gillespie has overseen the awarding of several developmental research grants to Cancer Center investigators who are members of other programs in the Cancer Center, and whose research is relevant to the biology of primary brain tumors.

Leadership Activities:

Burt Nabors, M.D., serves as the Clinical Science Program Leader of the Neuro-Oncology Program and will oversee all of the clinical trials for patients with primary, recurrent and metastatic brain tumors that are conducted at UAB. This oversight is supported by his leadership of the Clinical Trials Core Facility of the UAB Brain SPORE, by his membership in the Clinical Trials Review Committee of the Cancer Center, as well as through his direction of the Brain Tumor Working Group Committee meetings. As Program Leader, Dr. Nabors continues to serve an important liaison role with the ABTC, and is the UAB liaison for the NCCN. As Director of the Participant and Clinical Interaction Resource (PCIR) of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS; Lisa Guay-Woodford, M.D., PI), he is uniquely positioned to facilitate the translational efforts of the Neuro-Oncology Program. Through his efforts Dr. Nabors has also been instrumental in stimulating collaborative efforts not only with other members of the Neuro-Oncology Program, but with other Cancer Center investigators as well.

Yancey Gillespie, Ph.D., serves as Basic Science Program Leader and has been actively engaged in the development of the multidisciplinary Neuro-Oncology Program that has integrated basic science, preclinical and translational clinical components. Dr. Gillespie has collaborated with most of the current Program members as evidenced by multiple publications (over 40 peer-reviewed papers) and collective grants. Thus, the long-term collaborative relationships Dr. Gillespie had formed with many of the current and former members of the Neuro-Oncology Program provided the basis for the successful application for the currently funded Brain SPORE award and his being named as a Co-Leader of this program. Since its inception, he has served on the UAB Brain Tumor Working Group committee where clinical protocols are initially reviewed, and the Data Safety Monitoring Board of the UAB Brain SPORE, the Gene Therapy panel of the UAB IRB, and the Clinical Trials Review Committee of the Comprehensive Cancer Center. He has served on the DSMB for Ceregene, Inc. and is currently a member of the Scientific Advisory Boards for T-Vax, Inc.,Tampa Bay Research Institute and SunBiochem, Inc. Thus, he has extensive experience with all aspects of translational research in the brain tumor field.

As Director of the Division of Neuro-Oncology, Dr. Nabors leads the clinical efforts of all three faculty neuro-oncologists (Nabors, Fathallah, Han) and interfaces with the other components of the Inter-Disciplinary Brain Tumor Clinical Team (neurosurgery, radiation oncology, neuro-radiology, nursing staff, etc) in the overall care for patients with brain tumors.  Moreover, his research activities involve a substantial number of collaborations with basic scientists, translational and clinical scientists who are part of the Neuro-Oncology and other Programs of CCC.

As Director of the Brain SPORE, Dr. Gillespie leads a key research enterprise with the main objective of translating basic science discoveries into clinical medicine. This enterprise provides highly unique services to a wide variety of brain tumor investigators, some of whom are not specifically affiliated with the SPORE but who are attracted to these services to promote and foster their research activities. Since the major mission of a Comprehensive Cancer Center is translational medical research, SPOREs serve as the organ-specific engines that help to pull this train.

Thus, given the close proximity of offices and labs, Drs. Nabors and Gillespie take every advantage of the multiple daily opportunities to interact informally to discuss a wide range of topics related to all aspects of the Neuro-Oncology Program. Not only are these programmatic issues identified and discussed, but specific action items are assigned to ensure that any barriers to the members of the Neuro-Oncology Program accomplishing the goals of the program are ameliorated. Moreover, these informal interactions give rise to collaborative research that is planned, the results discussed and the findings published. On the clinical side, Drs. Nabors and Gillespie attend the weekly Brain Tumor Case Conference as well as the monthly Brain Tumor Working Group meetings. Since both Leaders are active collaborators with other members of the Neuro-Oncology Program, opportunities for grant applications and new research ideas are constantly being explored.   Interaction at every level fosters a broader understanding of the Program Leaders for the problems and issues needed to be addressed to permit the goals of the Neuro-Oncology Program to be achieved.

Dr. Nabors has collaborative research activities with Dr. Etty Benveniste (Leader, Cancer Cell Biology), Dr. H. W. Sontheimer (Director, Civitan International Research Center; Director, Center for Glial Biology in medicine) and Dr. Andres Forero (Leader, Experimental Therapeutics). Dr. Nabors is the Director of the Participant and Clinical Interactive Resource (PCIR) center funded by the CCTS (Lisa Guay-Woodford, M.D., PI) and facilitates cancer-focused clinical trials that require the use of the clinical research capabilities of the PCIR for their patients.

Dr. Gillespie has collaborative research activities with Dr. Richard Whitley (Leader, Virology Program), Dr. Donald Buchsbaum (Leader, Tumor Immunology Program) and Dr. Etty Benveniste (Leader, Cancer Cell Biology Program). Dr. Gillespie serves on the Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance Advisory Board (chaired by Dr. Whitley) along with Dr. Mary-Ann Bjornsti (Leader, Cancer Cell Biology Program). Dr. Gillespie has a demonstration project with the CaBIG Bioinformatics Working Group that is funded by the Comprehensive Cancer Center with CCC oversight. Dr. Gillespie is a regular member of the Clinical Trials Review Committee of the CCC, which meets every other week under the direction of Drs. Mansoor Saleh and Albert LoBuglio. Dr. Gillespie chaired the committee to evaluate existing Shared Service Committees, which recommended the continuing of heavily utilized facilities or replacement of under-performing facilities.

Contact Information:

Leader: L. Burt Nabors, M.D.
Email: bnabors@uab.edu
Phone: (205) 934-1813

Co-Leader: G. Yancey Gillespie, Ph.D.
Email: yancey@uab.edu
Phone: (205) 975-0438

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