The research strategy for A Kids’ Brain Tumor Cure Foundation (aka The PLGA Foundation) is guided by an External Scientific Advisory Committee and two Internal Scientific Advisors.


Samuel C. Blackman, MD, PhD

Samuel C. Blackman, MD, PhD, Senior Medical Director, Juno Therapeutics, Inc., Seattle, WA.

Dr. Blackman is a physician-scientist trained in pediatric hematology-oncology and pediatric neuro-oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Children’s Hospital Boston. For the past 6 years he has been focused on the early clinical development of novel cancer therapeutics and has held various positions of increasing responsibility within the pharmaceutical industry. In his present role at Juno Therapeutics he is responsible for clinical development of novel immunotherapeutics for cancer, including chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies and high-affinity T cell receptor (TCR) therapies. Prior to his current role he served as Head of Translational Medicine at Seattle Genetics where he was responsible for pre-clinical and early clinical development of novel antibody drug conjugate (ADC) therapeutics for cancer and lead a group of 30 physicians and scientists. Earlier he was a Director in the Oncology Early Development Unit at GlaxoSmithKline where he focused on the development of targeted therapeutics for cancer and also lead the pediatric development of GSKs BRAF and MEK inhibitors. While employed at Merck Research Laboratories, Dr. Blackman was Associate Director of Experimental Medicine/Oncology and was responsible for developing novel proof-of-concept platforms and clinical validation of biomarkers in association with several early stage drug development programs and designed the pediatric development strategy for Merck’s mTOR inhibitor program.

Dr. Blackman is a graduate of the pediatric residency program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He received his MD and PhD degrees at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine and Department of Pharmacology, and his undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Chicago.

LibuttiSteven K. Libutti, M.D., FACS, Director, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey,Vice Chancellor for Cancer Programs, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.
Senior Vice President, Oncology Services, RWJBarnabas Health
Professor of Surgery, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Steven K. Libutti, MD, is one of the leaders in regional cancer therapy and tumor targeted gene therapy and is a recognized surgical oncologist and expert in endocrine surgery and in the management of neuroendocrine tumors. After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard College, Dr. Libutti received his medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. He remained at Presbyterian Hospital in New York where he completed his residency in surgery, followed by a fellowship at the NCI in surgical oncology and endocrine surgery. He continued at the NCI where he became a tenured Senior Investigator and Chief of the Tumor Angiogenesis Section in the Surgery Branch. Dr. Libutti is studying tumor neovascular formation and the interaction between tumor cells, endothelial cells and the components of the tumor microenvironment including fibroblasts and cancer stem cells. The goal of Dr. Libutti’s research program is to develop novel cancer therapies through a better understanding of the complex interactions within the tumor microenvironment.  He has published over 270 peer-reviewed journal articles, is Editor-in-Chief of the Nature Journal Cancer Gene Therapy, and holds seven U.S. patents. In addition to his laboratory and research interests, Dr. Libutti is an accomplished clinical surgeon. His clinical expertise is in the management of malignancies of the liver, pancreas, and GI tract, and in applying laparoscopic surgery to managing patients with malignancies. Dr. Libutti is the Director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the State’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.


Dr. Ingo Mellinghoff

Dr. Ingo Mellinghoff, Evnin Family Chair in Neuro-Oncology; Vice Chair for Research, Department of Neurology; Associate Member, Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Dr. Mellinghoff is a Physician-Scientist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He completed his clinical (Hematology-Oncology) and laboratory research (Molecular Biology) training at the University of California, Los Angeles. He currently holds joint faculty appointments in the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program and the Department of Neurology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and in the Department of Pharmacology at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, New York. His research focuses on the study of aberrant signaling transduction pathways in primary human brain tumors and the development of novel approaches to identify genomic and proteomic alterations in primary human tumors. Dr. Mellinghoff is experienced in the preclinical and clinical evaluation of novel therapeutic and imaging agents for cancer. His research has been published in leading peer-reviewed journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine, Cancer Cell, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PLoS Medicine, and others. He has received numerous awards for his work on brain cancer, including the Advanced Clinical Research Award in Glioma from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Sontag Foundation Distinguished Scientist Award, the Leon Levy Research Professor Award, and Physician Scientist awards from the Sidney Kimmel Foundation and Doris Duke Foundation.

Dr. Neal Rosen

Dr. Neal Rosen, MD, PhD, Enid Haupt Chair in Medical Oncology and a Member of the Program in Molecular Pharmacology and Chemistry at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Professor of Pharmacology, Cell Biology and Medicine at the Cornell University Medical School.

Dr. Rosen received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Columbia College and an MD, PhD in Molecular Biology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and post-doctoral training and a fellowship in Medical Oncology at the National Cancer Institute. He was on the senior staff of the Medicine Branch at the NCI prior to joining the faculty of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Rosen’s major interests are the identification and study of the key molecular events and growth signaling pathways responsible for the development of prostate, breast, melanoma and other human cancers, and the use of this information for the development of mechanism-based therapeutic strategies. In the course of this work his laboratory has developed inhibitors of the Hsp90 protein chaperone and validated their anticancer activity in animal models and clinical trials.Currently his laboratory work focuses on using pharmacologic and genetic approaches to develop a detailed understanding of feedback and cross-talk among oncogene-activated pathways in order to develop rational strategies for combination therapy.

William SniderWilliam Snider, MD, Director of UNC Neuroscience Center, Director of Neurobiology Curriculum and Professor, Neurology and Cell and Molecular Physiology at University of NC at Chapel Hill

Dr. Snider trained at Beth Israel Hospital, Harvard Medical School and completed his Neurology residency at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. Followed with a postdoctoral fellow ship in the department of Physiology and Biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine.

Dr. Snider is currently the Director of the Neuroscience Center at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine. In his role, he has directed or facilitated the hiring of 13 young neuroscience faculty members. He is a prolific scientific writer, with over 3 dozen published papers in the past 10 years. Dr. Snider also serves as a PI for an NINDS sponsored Center grant, which funds 6 core facilities that provide infrastructure for neuroscience research at UNC. Dr. Snider has the distinction of being awarded a Jacob Javits Award from the NINDS and having delivered the Bunge lecture at the University of Miami and the Robert A Oakley Lecture at the George Washington University School of Medicine. He is currently on Editorial Board at “Neuron”, and has served in this capacity since 1995. Prior to joining UNC-Chapel Hill, Dr. Snider held the position of Assistant Professor, Associate and subsequently Professor of Neurology and Anat and Neurobiology at Washington University in St. Louis.


The Pediatric Low-Grade Astrocytoma Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, established by A Kids’ Brain Tumor Cure (PLGA Foundation) in 2007, is a group of internationally renowned experts dedicated to advancing targeted therapy treatments for this devastating disease. Headed by Dr. Mark Kieran and Dr. Charles Stiles, this group is spearheading basic scientific investigations that are revealing key biologic and molecular information. Read more about the progress of the program as of September 2016 here.


Dr. Mark Kieran, MD, PhD – Physician Director, Pediatric Neuro-Oncology, Department of Oncology, Department of Pediatric Oncology, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Associate Professor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Kieran received his PhD in 1983 from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, and his MD in 1986 from the University of Calgary. He completed postgraduate training in molecular biology at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. After a pediatric residency at McGill University in Montreal, he received postdoctoral education at Children’s Hospital Boston. Dr. Kieran became Director of Pediatric Medical Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center in 1999.


Dr. Charles StilesDr. Charles Stiles, Ph.D. Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Co-Chair, Department of Cancer Biology, DFCI Co-Director, Program in Pediatric Low-Grade Astrocytoma, DFCI

Dr. Stiles is well known for his work on signaling mechanisms that regulate growth and differentiation of stem cells in the developing brain. These signaling mechanisms, when perturbed, give rise to low-grade astrocytomas (LGAs) in children. However, these same signaling mechanisms lend themselves to the design of targeted therapeutics (a.k.a. “smart drugs”) that will kill tumor cells without the debilitating side effects seen with the current generation of cytotoxic drugs used to treat LGAs in children. Towards the goal of targeted therapeutics for pediatric LGAs, Stiles and his students work collaboratively with a wide range of scientists at Childrens Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard/MIT Broad Institute. They also work closely with scientists in the corporate sector who are developing targeted therapeutics for cancer therapy. Dr Stiles has published more than 100 research articles on cell signaling mechanisms in peer-reviewed journals and has also received prizes for both teaching and mentoring at Harvard Medical School.