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Michelle Monje: New therapies for brain cancer

More than half of cancer survivors suffer cognitive impairment from chemotherapy. A deepening understanding of how the healthy brain grows and functions could help change that.

A profile/side view of a stylized, multi-color brain

What are current cancer therapies doing to the brain over the long term? | iStock/Jolygon

Brain cancers are known to be elusive and clever killers, but Michelle Monje, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences, is helping to find new treatments through a better understanding of how healthy brain cells develop and how cancers often hijack those very same processes in order to grow themselves.

Monje says that the last decade has seen tremendous progress in our understanding of how cancers thrive and in the development of new drugs and therapies to kill the killers. Unfortunately, many chemotherapy drugs powerful enough to kill cancers also cause lasting impairment of the patient’s cognitive abilities, a condition known among doctors and patients as “chemobrain.”

Monje is on the hunt for more effective and safer treatments for brain cancer. One exciting development, she says, is a quickly evolving field known as immunotherapy, which harnesses the body’s own immune system to recognize and to kill cancers. She’s also exploring a new drug that can help specific brain cells, known as glia, counteract the harmful effects of chemobrain.

Join host Russ Altman and brain cancer expert Michelle Monje for an inspiring look at new and safer treatments for brain cancer. 

You can listen to the Future of Everything on iTunes, Google Podcasts, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher or via Stanford Engineering Magazine.