Dr. Jeffrey B. Matthews

David M. Frim, MD, PhD
Ralph Cannon Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics
Chief, Section of Neurosurgery
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Bakhtiar Yamini, MD speaking at BrainUp’s 4th Annual 5K Run/Walk in 2019.

BrainUp’s Commitment to Patients, Families and Research

The University of Chicago Medicine Brain Tumor Center is led by a multidisciplinary team of neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists and radiation oncologists who collaborate to plan and provide individualized care for patients with the most intricate brain and spinal cord tumors, both malignant and benign. This includes everything from maximally invasive resections to minimally invasive needle-based treatments.

Bakhtiar Yamini, MD, Professor of Surgery and Director of Neurosurgical Oncology, knew early on in his career that neurosurgical oncology was his calling. From a surgical standpoint, he finds complex brain procedures fascinating; his research interests have allowed him to dive even deeper into neuro-oncology and investigate the underlying mechanisms involved in how brain and spinal cord tumors develop, sustain and spread. Dr. Yamini’s research on a specific tumor called glioblastoma has led not only to several publications in recent years, but also to a clinical trial in patients with the tumor.

Crucial research finds support

After losing their only child—their daughter, Olivia—to glioblastoma, Dan and Meg Kresach founded the nonprofit organization BrainUp. The group’s mission is to bring awareness to brain cancer by not only supporting ongoing investigative research, but also reassuring patients and families that they are not alone in their battles.

The Kresachs presented a check for $175,000 to Dr. Yamini to support his ongoing brain cancer research at UChicago Medicine. “Glioblastoma is the most aggressive type of brain tumor and unfortunately the most common as well,” said Dr. Yamini. The average length of survival for a patient with glioblastoma is approximately one year.

“The Kresach family is deeply invested in the organization on a personal level,” said Dr. Yamini. His own dedication to bringing a cancer cure closer to fruition through rigorous research has not gone unnoticed. Dr. Yamini is also a recipient of the Olivia Kresach Medal of Excellence Award.

BrainUp raises funding to bring together Chicago-based institutions to better treat malignant brain tumors, but the nonprofit assists in the community as well, offering such uplifting services as covering patients’ transportation costs for daily appointments.

This type of support is extremely beneficial to patients on the South Side of Chicago who don’t always have the resources to get the treatment they need.

Repurposing a familiar therapy

Dr. Yamini’s research into glioblastoma looks for ways to refine the treatment of malignant brain tumors. “We identified a molecule that, when present, makes the tumor more resistant. The way to block that molecule is by use of a common drug, Diamox, which is used for altitude sickness,” he said. His clinical trial has repurposed Diamox for the treatment of brain tumors. During the trial, patients take the drug a couple of times a day and cocktail it with their regular chemotherapy. “The hope is that taking Diamox will enhance the efficacy of brain tumor treatment by reducing the cancer’s resistance to chemotherapy,” he explained. “It’s a very well-tolerated drug.” Dr. Yamini noted that he uses it sometimes himself when hiking in the mountains.

With active support comes quality longevity

“Any kind of support group is a large factor in patient survival, as well as quality of life,” said Dr. Yamini. BrainUp goes a long way in providing that support by helping patients and families understand how to navigate multifaceted treatment options.

BrainUp also fosters community involvement by holding fundraising events such as the annual 5K Run/Walk. Patients, families, friends, physicians and healthcare providers from all over the Chicagoland area gather to raise awareness about the importance of research and new discoveries, and also to celebrate life, all while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for brain cancer research.

Dr. Yamini and Dr. Pillainayagam being presented the 2019 Olivia Kresach Medal of Excellence Awards from BrainUp.

Through the work of dedicated physicians like Dr. Yamini and organizations like BrainUp, the hope is to not only increase life expectancy, but to increase quality of life and, one day, to find a cure.

“Any kind of support group is a large factor in patient survival, as well as quality of life.”

Bakhtiar Yamini, MD
Professor of Surgery and Radiation and Cellular Oncology;
Director, Neurosurgical Oncology; Committee on Cancer Biology

Collaborators who care

UChicago Medicine is a world-renowned institution composed of steadfast physicians and researchers such as Dr. Yamini, committed to serving the vibrant community that surrounds it. “Brain cancer can affect anyone, anywhere,” said Dr. Yamini. “Having such a rare gem within reach provides accessibility, which is vital for continuous multidisciplinary care, and plays a huge role in fighting this aggressive disease.”

faculty listing

Professor of Surgery
Issam A. Awad, MD, John Harper Seeley Professor of Neurological Sciences of Surgery; Professor of Neurology; Director, Neurovascular Surgery; Director, Safadi Program of Excellence in Clinical and Translational Neuroscience
David M. Frim, MD, PhD, Ralph Cannon Professor of Surgery; Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics; Chief, Section of Neurosurgery
Javad Hekmat-panah, MD, Professor of Neurosurgery, Neurology, and Cancer Research
Peter C. Warnke, MD, Professor of Surgery; Director, Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery
Bakhtiar Yamini, MD, Professor of Surgery and Radiation and Cellular Oncology; Director, Neurosurgical Oncology; Committee on Cancer Biology

Assistant Professor of Surgery
Paramita Das, MD, MS, Assistant Professor of Surgery
Peleg Horowitz, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Surgery
Edwin Ramos, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery; Program Director, Neurosurgery Residency Program

Clinical Associate of Neurosurgery
Martin Herman, MD, PhD, Clinical Associate of Neurosurgery
Christian Sikorski, MD, Clinical Associate of Neurosurgery

Research Associate Professor of Surgery
Robert Shenkar, PhD, Research Associate Professor of Surgery

Research Assistant Professor of Surgery
Romuald Girard, PhD, Research Assistant Professor of Surgery
Le Shen, MB, PhD, Research Assistant Professor of Surgery

faculty honors

Issam A. Awad, MD, and his research team were recognized with a stunning photograph on the cover of Science Translational Medicine.

A paper by Issam A. Awad, MD, and Le Shen, MB, PhD, appeared in Nature Communications reporting highly advanced and innovative metagenomics and computational work, leveraging the group’s powerhouse multidisciplinary talent in clinical research, disciplined human subject recruitments, multisite collaborations and plasma biomarkers expertise, in addition to microbiome metagenomics and other advanced platforms.

The Council of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke approved a new $4 million, five-year grant to the Awad Lab to develop blood biomarkers of cavernous angiomas with symptomatic hemorrhage, including optimization and validation at multiple sites.

Romuald Girard, PhD, had a paper accepted in GeroScience (in press), which describes common transcriptomic and biomarker signatures in the aging brain and a Mendelian neurovascular disease, cerebral cavernous malformation.

select publications

Awad IA, Polster SP. Cavernous angiomas: deconstructing a neurosurgical disease. J Neurosurg. 2019 Jul 01; 131(1):1-13. PMID: 31261134.

Chiocca EA, Yu JS, Lukas RV, Solomon IH, Ligon KL, Nakashima H, Triggs DA, Reardon DA, Wen P, Stopa BM, Naik A, Rudnick J, Hu JL, Kumthekar P, Yamini B, Buck JY, Demars N, Barrett JA, Gelb AB, Zhou J, Lebel F, Cooper LJN. Regulatable interleukin-12 gene therapy in patients with recurrent high-grade glioma: Results of a phase 1 trial. Sci Transl Med. 2019 08 14; 11(505). PMID: 31413142.

Loggini A, Vasenina VI, Mansour A, Das P, Horowitz PM, Goldenberg FD, Kramer C, Lazaridis C. Management of civilians with penetrating brain injury: A systematic review. J Crit Care. 2020 Apr; 56:159-166. PMID: 31923862.

McLone D, Frim D, Penn R, Swisher CN, Heydemann P, Boyer KM, Noble AG, Rabiah PK, Withers S, Wroblewski K, Karrison T, Hutson S, Wheeler K, Cohen W, Lykins J, McLeod R. Outcomes of hydrocephalus secondary to congenital toxoplasmosis. J Neurosurg Pediatr. 2019 Sep 06; 1-8. PMID: 31491752.

Nelson SE, Mould WA, Gandhi D, Thompson RE, Salter S, Dlugash R, Awad IA, Hanley DF, Ziai W. Primary intraventricular hemorrhage outcomes in the CLEAR III trial. Int J Stroke. 2020 Feb 19; 1747493020908146. PMID: 32075571.

Polster SP, Sharma A, Tanes C, Tang AT, Mericko P, Cao Y, Carrión-Penagos J, Girard R, Koskimäki J, Zhang D, Stadnik A, Romanos SG, Lyne SB, Shenkar R, Yan K, Lee C, Akers A, Morrison L, Robinson M, Zafar A, Bittinger K, Kim H, Gilbert JA, Kahn ML, Shen L, Awad IA. Permissive microbiome characterizes human subjects with a neurovascular disease cavernous angioma. Nat Commun. 2020 05 27; 11(1):2659. PMID: 32461638.

Satzer D, Tao JX, Issa NP, Chen Z, Wu S, Rose S, Collins J, Awad IA, Warnke PC. Stereotactic laser interstitial thermal therapy for epilepsy associated with solitary and multiple cerebral cavernous malformations. Neurosurg Focus. 2020 04 01; 48(4):E12. PMID: 32234994.

Tang AT, Sullivan KR, Hong CC, Goddard LM, Mahadevan A, Ren A, Pardo H, Peiper A, Griffin E, Tanes C, Mattei LM, Yang J, Li L, Mericko-Ishizuka P, Shen L, Hobson N, Girard R, Lightle R, Moore T, Shenkar R, Polster SP, Roedel CJ, Li N, Zhu Q, Whitehead KJ, Zheng X, Akers A, Morrison L, Kim H, Bittinger K, Lengner CJ, Schwaninger M, Velcich A, Augenlicht L, Abdelilah-Seyfried S, Min W, Marchuk DA, Awad IA, Kahn ML. Distinct cellular roles for PDCD10 define a gut-brain axis in cerebral cavernous malformation. Sci Transl Med. 2019 11 27; 11(520). PMID: 31776290.

Tao JX, Satzer D, Issa NP, Collins J, Wu S, Rose S, Henry J, Santos de Lima F, Nordli D, Warnke PC. Stereotactic laser anterior corpus callosotomy for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Epilepsia. 2020 Jun; 61(6):1190-1200. PMID: 32401350.

residents & fellows

View the Neurosurgery Residents and Fellows here.