Catherine Ivy, founder and president of the Ivy Foundation

The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation (Ivy Foundation) announced funding of $2 million for MD Anderson to study ways to shut down a protein in the human body with ties to aggressive brain tumor development and progression.

Transcription factor STAT3 (which stands for signal transducer and activator of transcription 3) has been found to play a key role in the growth brain tumors, such as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

A transcription factor is a protein that binds to specific DNA sequences and controls the rate of the transcription of genetic information from DNA to messenger RNA. STAT3 is a type of transcription factor. In humans it is encoded by the STAT3 gene. By shutting down STAT3, researchers hope to halt the growth of an aggressive brain tumor and free up the immune system to fight it.

“We chose to fund MD Anderson’s study to shut down STAT3 because it has the potential to increase patient life expectancy and quality of life, which are two main focus areas of our mission,” said Catherine Ivy, founder and president of the Ivy Foundation.

The transcription factor STAT3 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 3) plays a key role in the development and progression of high-grade malignant gliomas, the most common and aggressive brain tumors. STAT3 is essential for the maintenance of cancer stem cells, and it also protects tumors by suppressing the body’s immune system responses.

Propelled by support from the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation, MD Anderson has developed two different ways to shut down STAT3: a small molecule inhibitor designed to halt STAT3 cancer-driving function and a unique nanoparticle that transports a blocking agent to disable the STAT3 signaling pathway in the immune system, thus unleashing that system to destroy the tumor.

“We are very grateful to the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation for partnering with us to enable both the preclinical research needed to develop these novel therapeutic strategies and the forthcoming launch of clinical trials that will bring them to patients,” says Amy Heimberger, M.D., the professor of neurosurgery who leads this research. “We believe this work has the potential to change the course of treatment for patients with glioblastoma multiforme and other deadly gliomas by improving survival rates and minimizing toxicity.”

The Ivy Foundation has a research funding focus on glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and deadliest of malignant primary brain tumors in adults and is the largest privately funded brain cancer research foundation in North America. The Ivy Foundation has invested more than $60 million in brain cancer research since its inception.