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NF Center Researchers Team Up With Stanford Neuroscientists To Study How Nerves Fire Up Cancer

David H. Gutmann, MD, PhD, the Donald O. Schnuck Family Professor and Director of the Neurofibromatosis (NF) Center at Washington University, received a collaborative grant from the National Cancer Institute to study how nerves control brain tumor initiation and growth.

Together with Dr. Michelle Monje, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurology at Stanford University and Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Gutmann and his team aim to define the mechanisms by which nerve cell (neuron) activity is regulated by mutations in the NF1 gene. These new studies build upon prior collaborative findings by Drs. Gutmann and Monje showing that light activation of neurons in the eye is necessary for NF1-optic glioma formation in mice. This is the first time that nerve cell activity has been implicated in the initiation of brain tumors.

Leveraging the combined expertise of the Monje laboratory in optogenetics and the Gutmann laboratory in Nf1 optic glioma modeling, this investigative research group hopes to discover innovative ways to treat brain tumors arising in children with NF1.