In addition to immunotherapy, Rudnick researches targeted therapy, also referred to as molecular therapy or precision medicine.
With these methods, the team attempts to understand the immune response at the cell level, and then prime the cells to continue to adapt to respond to the cancer through cellular mutation. Sequencing both the patient’s immune cells and tumor cells can reveal how the two interact and predict how the tumor may react.
To stop the tumor from growing, the body must continually adapt as the tumor changes its course of attack.
“The immune system can evolve rapidly, the way a tumor can evolve,” Rudnick said.
In one current trial with the Brain Tumor Alliance, Rudnick and his team work with tumor types that have a TRK end track mutation. A commercially available drug responds to the mutation, shutting down the tumor’s pathways to communicate with the body.
The mutation can be found in various types of malignant tumors throughout the body. Whether the tumor is in the brain, breast, lungs or elsewhere does not impact its responsiveness to targeted therapy.
For example, Rudnick is principal investigator on a trial targeting the c-MET mutation found in both non-small cell lung cancers and glioblastomas.
“Even though I’m a neuro-oncologist, the c-MET mutations in both locations are treated with the same drug,” he said.