Carter Hoss is a goofy, caring, and fun-loving sixth grader. He has also raised over $1500 to benefit NF Midwest through participation in the organization’s annual Walk 4 NF event. Both aspects of Carter stem from his drive to constantly improve himself and the world around him, always on a mission to help however he can.

Carter first visited the Washington University NF Clinic Program at St. Louis Children’s Hospital as a toddler after his pediatrician referred him to Dr. David H. Gutmann. At this time, he received a diagnosis of NF1. Since then, Carter has been an enthusiastic participant in Club NF, the Washington University NF Center’s school-aged free therapy program – he has enjoyed going ice-skating and swimming in particular.

Carter prefers to be active and outside, playing baseball, basketball, soccer, and nerf games with his little brother. He always looks forward to fishing for catfish with his grandpa or baking with his grandma and has a particular passion for meeting new people and trying new things. He is a reliable friend to his classmates, often standing up for his peers in the face of bullying and serving as a go-to resource for anyone who needs a laugh. When Carter’s little brother was nervous for his first day of Kindergarten, Carter reassured him, wisely remarking that everyone has to start somewhere. His mom describes him as “ready to
defeat the world.”

It was that caring and go-getter attitude that spurred Carter’s participation in Walk 4 NF. Walk 4 NF is an annual fundraising event held in several Midwestern locations. Its mission is to end NF by funding research and raising awareness. Participants put together their own fundraising teams before coming together to walk, enjoy live music, hear speeches, and connect with other members of the NF community.

Carter’s team, called Carter’s Cardinals, first participated in Walk 4 NF in 2020. Though that event was virtual, Carter hugely enjoyed the strong sense of community and belonging it generated and was super excited to be featured in an official NF Midwest video played at the event’s conclusion.

For the 2021 Walk 4 NF, held in Columbia, MO, Carter increased his fundraising goal, motivated both by the opportunity to help the NF community and his ambition to outdo himself. Not only did Carter meet his goal, but he also won second place in fundraising overall, raising more than twice his original objective. Additionally, he interacted with over 200 people in the NF community – he loved talking with a diverse group of individuals affected by NF, especially those older than him, with wisdom to share. Carter’s parents particularly enjoyed talking to other parents of children with NF, exchanging stories and advice. Carter and his family are determined to continue their participation in Walk 4 NF for years to come – where Carter will focus on raising a little bit more every year.

For Carter and his family, the joy of participation in both Walk 4 NF, and Club NF comes from the sense of community present in these events and the feeling of accomplishment that they offer. Carter walks away knowing that he produced tangible change, that he actually did something, and that he is never alone in doing so. For these reasons, the Hoss family strongly encourages all families affected by NF to get involved, both in these events and in all others like them. As put by mother, Moriah, knowing that the money goes “toward something near and dear to our hearts” is the ultimate reward.

New Study Identifies Immune Cell Target for Blocking Tumor Growth

Previous studies from the laboratory of NF Center director, David H. Gutmann, MD, PhD, have shown that immune system-like cells, called microglia, are important non-cancerous regulators of NF1 optic glioma formation and growth. Using a combination of RNA sequencing, genetically engineered mouse strains, and human tumor specimens, Amanda de Andrade Costa and colleagues discovered that brain tumor-associated microglia express a protein called CD11A.

In this study, recently published in the journal Neuro-Oncology, Dr. Costa found that CD11A was not only expressed on microglia in numerous strains of Nf1-mutant mice that develop optic gliomas, but also on human brain tumor-associated microglia. To determine whether CD11A was also important for microglia function, Dr. Jit Chatterjee, another postdoctoral fellow in the Gutmann laboratory, used microglia from mice lacking CD11a, and showed that these CD11a-deficient microglia had reduced migration and expression of a key growth factor needed for Nf1 mouse optic glioma growth. Consistent with an essential role for CD11a-expressing microglia in controlling Nf1 optic glioma growth, Dr. Costa used antibodies to block CD11a, resulting in reduced tumor growth in vivo.

Taken together, these findings establish CD11A as a critical microglia regulator of NF1 optic glioma growth, suggesting alternative treatment strategies for pediatric brain tumors.

De Andrade Costa A, Chatterjee J, Cobb O, Sanapala S, Guo X, Dahiya S, Gutmann DH. RNA sequence analysis reveals ITGAL/CD11A as a stromal regulator of murine low-grade glioma growth. Neuro Oncol. 2021 May 27:noab130. doi: 10.1093/neuonc/noab130. Online ahead of print. PMID: 34043012