As a pediatric neurosurgeon at Riley Children’s Health, Jignesh Tailor, MD, PhD, performs surgeries to keep children with brain tumors alive. As a researcher, he studies tumor origins with the hope that one day these surgeries will no longer be needed.
“There’s so much we can do to fight brain cancer with surgical techniques and drugs, but these treatments have limits and risks; I’ve always felt there could be a better way,” Dr. Tailor says. “If we understand more about how these tumors develop, we may be able prevent them from occurring.”
Dr. Tailor’s research investigates the early stages of brain tumor genesis with the goal of identifying novel therapeutic strategies to prevent the formation of tumors. Focusing on neural stem cells, he is particularly interested in the origin of childhood brain tumors that are thought to arise from progenitors of the developing brain.
“Through molecular sequencing, we're able to decode an entire brain tumor and understand the mutations that are occurring,” he explains. “However, this doesn’t give us adequate information about how the tumor formed in the first place.”
Concentrating on cancer predisposition syndromes such as neurofibromatosis and Li-Fraumeni and Von Hippel-Lindau syndromes, Dr. Tailor uses human stem cells in vitro to study the process. One of his active studies targets the NF2 gene, which plays an important role in brain development, and how its mutations lead to brain and spine tumors in children and adults with neurofibromatosis type 2.
“We’re essentially creating cellular avatars of these patients and with reprogramming techniques, we are able to model the individual’s genetics and engineer the cell to develop new mutations to try and understand what happened—what stopped the cell from becoming a neuron.”
In a second active study, Dr. Tailor and his team are using a large-scale genetic CRISPR screening method to identify new drug targets in a stem cell model of medulloblastoma. Recipient of a 2022 CURE Childhood Cancer Early Investigator Award, Dr. Tailor is also funding his research laboratory through a grant from the American Cancer Society and start-up funds from the IU School of Medicine Department of Neurosurgery. To expand his research, he is applying for a National Institutes of Health K08 Clinical Investigator Award later this year.
Opening his research laboratory at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2022, Dr. Jignesh Tailor joins a venerable group of researchers at Riley Children’s engaged in groundbreaking neurofibromatosis research. Internationally recognized for advancements in NF research and treatment, Riley Children’s and Indiana University School of Medicine lead a multi-institutional Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant aimed at identifying new treatments for inherited childhood cancers.