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Top 5 Research Stories of 2023

In 2023, UCSF Brain Tumor Center researchers focused on improving surgical resection for low-grade gliomas, glial tumor neuroscience, meningioma biology, and more. Here are our top five research stories of the year:


MRI scans showing how researchers calculated the extent of surgical resection.

Maximizing Tumor Resection Improves Low-Grade Glioma Patient Outcomes

Adults with low-grade gliomas can live longer if neurosurgeons remove as much of the brain tumor as possible, according to a new study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology led by researchers at the UCSF Brain Tumor Center.

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Human glioblastoma cells showing areas where new connections between cells are being formed at an accelerated rate.

Scientists Discover a Deadly Brain Cancer’s Hidden Weakness

Scientists at UC San Francisco have discovered that neural activity in glioblastomas can restructure connections in surrounding brain tissue, causing the cognitive decline associated with the disease. The commonly used epilepsy drug gabapentin blocks this growth-causing activity in mice.

“A brain tumor isn’t just sitting there dying,” said neurosurgeon and the study’s senior author Shawn Hervey-Jumper, MD. “It’s being regulated by the nervous system. It’s having conversations with the cells around it and actively integrating into brain circuits, remodeling the way they behave.”

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MRI showing a meningioma.

Can Gene Expression Predict if a Brain Tumor is Likely to Grow Back?

Researchers at the UCSF Brain Tumor Center and Northwestern Medicine, in collaboration with 10 other medical centers, have found a highly accurate way to predict the best treatment for meningioma patients based on gene expression patterns in their tumors. “Our biomarker…shows us which patients are likely to benefit from radiotherapy and which may get toxicity and possibly no benefit from radiation,” said UCSF radiation oncologist David Raleigh, MD, PhD.

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Illustration depicting focused ultrasound beams targeting a brain tumor. Art by Ken Probst.

Focused ultrasound technology may overcome barrier to brain tumor treatments

The blood-brain barrier protects the brain from many viruses, bacteria, and other harmful small molecules that could be circulating throughout the body. However, this same barrier prevents many cancer therapies from reaching brain tumors.

This year, the UCSF Brain Tumor Center launched clinical trials that use focused ultrasound to safely and temporarily disrupt the blood-brain barrier.

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Illustration depicting gene expression analysis of cancer-associated fibroblasts in glioblastoma.

Newly Identified Cells May Help Support Brain Tumor Microenvironment

Scientists at UC San Francisco have now discovered a population of cells – known as cancer-associated fibroblasts – in the GBM microenvironment that may play an important role in helping these tumors grow.

Their findings, published March 1 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, run counter to the scientific consensus that these cells are not found in brain tumors, presenting an unexplored avenue for new treatments.

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