Meet the Neuro Oncology Team

Team Co-Leaders

Basic Science Clinical
James R. Connor, Ph.D. Jonas M. Sheehan, M.D.
James R. Connor, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Neurosurgery and
Vice-Chair for Research
Jonas M. Sheehan, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery

The Department of Neurosurgery provides research and collaborative opportunities in the following areas:

1)  Tumor-specific delivery of toxins and small interferences mRNAs

We use nanovesicles that encapsulate cytotoxins or siRNA to selectively target tumor cells.  Selective targeting is achieved by modifying the surface of the nanovesicles. The approach we are using is to either attempt to kill the tumor cells directly with cytotoxins or increase their vulnerability to radiation and chemotherapeutic agents using siRNA.  An in vitro model of the blood-brain-barrier has been developed to determine ways to optimize transport of the nanovesicles and their contents.  The nanovesicle delivery system is also being used to target microglial cells in neurodegenerative disease models for Alzheimer's Disease, Motor Neuron Disease and Parkinson's Disease.

2)  Pharmacogenetics

We have identified a genotype that appears to be represented in 10% of the individuals with brain tumors.  This genotype results in resistance to existing chemotherapeutic agents.  A novel drug type has been discovered that we are exploring in tumors with this genotype. All brain tumors which are surgically removed in our hospital are cultured in our facility and can be tested for genotyping and response to chemotherapeutic agents and radiation.  We propose to continue to genotype tumors to identify specific genotypes and gene profiles associated with specific types of tumors.

3)  Outcome indicators for quality of life following neurosurgical interventions

Elana Farace, Ph.D., Director of Clinical Research for the Department of Neurosurgery, has developed an internationally recognized outcomes research program.  The program provides expertise in the global measurement of outcomes such as survival and quality of life, along with disease-specific outcomes such as neuropsychological changes following brain injury, brain tumors, hydrocephalus, etc. and pain and disability for patients with injury or disease in the spine.  Dr. Farace's program expands the research from the basic to translational to clinical realms.