How Do Fats Help Us Treat Brain Cancer?

Barrow Neurological Institute
Phoenix, Arizona
Open Access
DOI: 10.18258/2648
Raised of $2,000 Goal
Funded on 8/22/14
Successfully Funded
  • $3,158
  • 157%
  • Funded
    on 8/22/14

About This Project

Malignant Brain Tumors will kill over 13,000 cancer patients this year in the United States alone; brain tumors being the leading cause of death due to solid tumors in children. However, new clinical trials have begun investigating high fat (Ketogenic) diets as potential and promising therapeutics. We want to look at how these high-fat diets weaken tumor cells to radiation, potentially making brain tumors respond better to radiation therapy.

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What is the context of this research?

The five-year survival rate for Glioblastoma patients remains at around 10%. Despite this dismal prognosis, there has been a sparsity of new effective treatment options developed for patients over the last several decades. As a result, there is a high demand for new treatments.

In recent years, a few research laboratories have shown that high fat "Ketogenic Diets" could be effective in treating brain tumors. As a result, we are currently conducting a clinical trial at the Barrow Neurological Institute for patients with these deadly tumors. Our laboratory demonstrated that the Ketogenic Diet works with radiation therapy; however, there is still no explanation of how the Ketogenic Diet sensitizes the tumors to radiation. This is where you come in.

What is the significance of this project?

Radiation is a key part of treating many cancers. It is essentially the use high energy beams that cause damage inside tumor (and normal) cells in hopes of killing them.

However, some tumor cells are resistant to radiation. Every effort is made to target the radiation to the tumor and reduce the radiation to the healthy tissue; however, to protect the normal brain the dose of radiation is not always high enough to kill all tumor cells. When radiation is used to treat children with brain tumors there are often long term side effects including learning disabilities, personality disorders, and difficulties with normal growth. If we could use Ketones to sensitize brain tumor cells to radiation, then a lower radiation dose would be effective and children would have less long term side effects.

What are the goals of the project?

  1. Demonstrate that tumor cells are more sensitive to radiation when they are fed ketones.
  2. Begin to identify the possible mechanism(s) by which ketones affect tumor cells.


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Now, you're probably wondering how your money will be spent. In order to determine exactly what piece of the cellular machinery is being affected by the Ketogenic diet and radiation, I must run a series of tests and experiments. First and foremost, your money will go to purchasing reagents that will allow me to measure DNA damage, oxidative stress, and cell death, as well as antibodies, which will allow me to determine the presence of specific proteins. All remaining funds will go to cell culture materials, the purchasing Ketones for studies, and to coffee to keep us all up and running.

Meet the Team

Alex Rossi
Alex Rossi

Team Bio

Science has always been a source for joy and wonder in my life. However, it took on a much more personal role when my older brother was diagnosed with an exceedingly rare immunodeficiency that resulted in several bouts with organ failure. The only known cure for him was a bone marrow transplant which aimed to replace the faulty gene in his blood. Fortunately, I was found to be a perfect match for the transplant, and on August 30, 2011, I underwent a surgical operation to harvest my marrow. Since that day, I have watched my brother not only regrow his hair and regain his weight, but I have seen him reclaim his life. It was this terrible experience that spawned a wonderful reverberation of passion for science within me.

Though I am still a high school student, the majority of my free time is spent at the laboratory bench. However, when I do find an excuse to wander away from it, I often find myself dabbling in photography, listening to music, or just causing trouble with friends.

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Project Backers

  • 30Backers
  • 157%Funded
  • $3,158Total Donations
  • $88.60Average Donation
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