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Research Area
Research Category
Cancer and Blood Disorders
Ste. 1030

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.

Tumor tissue donations We are very interested in receiving both fresh and frozen brain tumor tissue specimens from collaborators within the US obtained at any point in the patient’s treatment (diagnosis, recurrence, or at autopsy) for the creation of new mouse models. If you are interested in donating tumor tissue to our laboratory, please email us at for more information. We have specially prepared kits which will be mailed to your group with detailed instructions for your local pathologist. Please note that we have established several mouse models from autopsy specimens obtained more than 24 hours after patient death, so there is no need to rush to autopsy to preserve tumor utility. We include all collaborators on the relevant future presentations and manuscripts.