Xiao-Nan Li, MD, PhD
Our laboratory focuses on molecular neuro-oncology and translational experimental therapeutics with a goal of improving the outcomes of pediatric patients with malignant brain tumors. We have optimized systems of both in vitro and in vivo assays to evaluate the antitumor effects of novel compounds on cell proliferation, apoptosis, differentiation, cellular senescence, colony forming efficiency, and tumorigenicity. We are particularly interested in establishing pre-clinical rational for clinical trials of various antitumor compounds. Our laboratory works closely with clinical investigators to quickly translate our pre-clinical findings into clinical trials; 4 clinical trials for pediatric brain tumors patients have resulted directly from our laboratory research.
We also have a specific interest in developing pre-clinical animal models for drug screening as well as biological studies of human malignant brain tumors. Since traditional subcutaneous xenograft models do not faithfully reproduce the biology of human brain tumors and are often associated with failure or reduced efficacy of the drug/therapy in clinical trials, we are actively engaged in the development of novel orthotopic xenograft models in SCID mice by injecting a patient’s tumor cells directly into matched location in mouse brains. Since the transplanted brain tumor cells grow in a biological and anatomic environment that is close to their native habitat, the developed xenograft tumors recapitulate the biology of human cancer much better than the traditional subcutaneous models. Therefore, the antitumor effects obtained in these models are more predictable of future clinical applications. Our laboratory has developed >100 models of 8 pediatric brain tumor pathologies as well as several models of adult GBM and meningioma. We have also developed models from patient autopsy tumor samples, which represent refractory/relapsed tumors most in need of novel therapies.