Allen Institute for Brain Science – Ivy Glioblastoma Atlas


The Ivy Glioblastoma Atlas Project will be a comprehensive 3D map of gene activity in cancerous brain tumor tissue, specifically glioblastoma. Sponsored by an award from the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation, this atlas has the potential to help match patients to the best treatments and accelerate discovery of new brain cancer treatments.

About the Project

The goal of the Ivy Glioblastoma Atlas Project is to characterize where genes are expressed, or “turned on,” in brain tumor tissue. The resulting public resource will accelerate the search for new treatments for brain cancer and allow scientists to focus on the genes that are unique to and matter for the disease. What people have done for the past few decades is to look at one part of the brain, one gene at a time. This atlas project revolutionizes the field by providing that data on many genes in many areas of the brain to all scientists and clinicians throughout the world.

Patients with brain cancer today face a deadly dilemma. Despite the availability of some scientific and clinical resources, treatment options are extremely limited. Glioblastoma is a fast-growing malignant tumor from the glial (supportive) tissue of the brain and spinal cord. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)—a “primary” malignant brain tumor—is by far the most common and most malignant of the glial tumors and tends to grow rapidly. Glioblastomas send cancerous tentacles into the brain that are difficult to remove by surgery. They can be difficult to treat, although surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy have shown the ability to prolong survival. Nevertheless, GBM remains an incurable and rapidly fatal disease, killing approximately 13,000 Americans every year.

The success of future therapies to treat GBM depends on understanding the key molecular alterations that drive tumor behavior and correlating them to treatment in individual patients. Additionally, brain tumors are usually caused by a change in genetic structure. This change in genetic structure may be inherited, caused by the environment, or both.

The Ivy Glioblastoma Atlas Project will comprise an extensive image-based dataset mapping gene activity throughout GBM tissue from tumors. Similar to other Allen Institute projects, data is being generated using an industrialized version of a process called in situ hybridization, which pinpoints and marks where a gene is expressed in thin tissue sections, offering microscopic detail down to the cellular level.

The project was made possible by the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation, who in 2008, awarded six major grants for new brain tumor research. The Allen Institute for Brain Science and the Ben and Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle, Washington were selected to receive $4.4 million to fund the Ivy Glioblastoma Atlas Project.

Allen Institute for Brain Science

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