Involved in Brain Tumor Program
Northern will play a
role in a new, comprehensive brain tumor program being established
by The Upper Michigan Cancer and the Upper Michigan Neuroscience
Center at Marquette General Hospital. The NMU biology department
will collaborate with MGH on a research program that will examine
the genetics of primary brain tumors in an effort to identify
the mechanisms that cause a cell to become cancerous. Improved
understanding of altered genetic pathways may lead to new treatment
Robert Winn (Biology,
pictured in a file photo with an NMU student) will lead
the research effort. He said his students are honored to work
closely with MGH on the new initiative.
“We’re excited to partner with MGH
in this way,” Winn said. “Using our research strengths with resources
available at MGH will benefit both institutions. I strongly believe
it will result in a better understanding of brain tumors and ultimately
better care for patients.”
Winn said the NMU biology
department will undertake the actual detection and characterization
of specific genes or gene products that may play a role in the
development and growth of tumor cells.
“We will use a variety of molecular
techniques depending on the specific target we hope to identify,”
he added. “We’ll be looking for the presence of gene products
in tumor cells that may be underlying causes of the tumor.”
The collaborative research effort is
one of three key components of the Upper Michigan Brain Tumor
Program, which might be fully operational by the fall. The remaining
two components are a uniform clinical treatment program and patient
advocacy programs. The latter would include support groups, educational
materials, a newsletter and a Web site.
MGH is using the Brain Tumor Center
at Duke University as a model and consulting resource. MGH provides
medical, surgical and radiation therapy care for a number of patients
with a variety of benign and malignant brain tumors. One of those
patients is Dorothy Verley, a retired NMU professor of health,
physical education and recreation.
Verley underwent brain tumor surgery
in November at Marquette General. During the surgery, Dr. Richard
Rovin implanted chemotherapy wafers called Gliadel into the tumor.
The wafers dissolve, releasing the chemotherapy drug BCNU. According
to Dr. Richard Rovin, a board-certified neurosurgeon, the localized
drug application increases the drug concentration at the tumor
site with minimal side effects in other parts of the body.
Following surgery, Verley
underwent radiation therapy five days a week for four weeks at
the Upper Michigan Cancer Center at MGH. She also received chemotherapy
at U.P. Hematology/Oncology Associates in the Peninsula Medical
Verley knew something
was wrong last summer when infrequent migraine headaches began
to the multiply to the point that she was experiencing them daily.
“I was sleeping a lot, too,” she explained.
“On my way back from a trip, the migraines became very bad. When
I got home, I went to the MGH emergency department, and an MRI
confirmed I had a tumor.”
A recent MRI shows the area as being
“clean,” but Verley will continue to undergo monthly chemotherapy
treatments to stay one step ahead of the cancer. She's pleased
to see Marquette General launch a brain tumor program.
“I came into this experience
unaware of brain tumors,” Verley said. “I’m still trying to cope
with the long-term perspective. It becomes overwhelming managing
17 different types of medications. I think the education and support
groups are a good idea, just to be able to say you can contact
someone to pinpoint certain maladies. I’m very interested in this
Dr. Rovin will serve
as a member of the core team for the brain tumor program. He is
optimistic that patients like Verley will reap the benefits of
the new initiative.
“This is a very exciting
time,” Rovin said. “NMU is fired up about the research, and we
are ready to build on our program and take it to another level.”
story was edited from a news release written by Jim LaJoie, MGH