Principal Investigator – Joint Appointee
Christopher trained in neurosurgery at the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), Singapore and at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. During his residency, he carried out bench research defining molecular mechanisms in oligodendrocyte development and myelination. He is currently a senior consultant neurosurgeon and head of neurosurgery (SGH campus) at the NNI with a sub-specialty practice in minimal access neurosurgery and neuro-oncology. He also contributes to medical education as an Associate Professor at the Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School, where he co-directs the Brain and Behaviour programme.
Cancer Stem Cell Model of Glioma Tumorigenesis
Although malignant tumors are known to be composed of a variety of different cell types, this concept of cellular heterogeneity in the study and design of anti-cancer therapeutics has largely been ignored. Primary malignant brain tumors are devastating cancers with poor survival rates despite major advances in surgical technology and adjuvant therapies. Emerging evidence in recent years has established key culprit cells within the tumor mass - the "cancer stem cells", which are responsible for initiation and propagation of tumor growth. These cancer stem cells are notoriously resistant to radiation and chemotherapy. The latter adjuvant therapies, which preferentially target rapidly dividing cells thus end up eliminating the bulk of tumor cells but spare these stem cells which divide at a much slower rate.
Their group has established a method of cryopreservation that facilitates the establishment of a brain tumor stem cell repository. They have isolated brain tumor stem cells from patient tumor samples, which are capable of re-creating tumor masses in mice. These implanted cells in the mouse brain eventually form tumors with morphology identical to that seen on pathological analysis of patient specimens. These tumor cells-of-origin display genetic profiles totally distinct from the tumor bulk. Importantly, different patients with similar tumor tissue pathology on microscopic examination display very different genetic profiles in their cells-of-origin, the cancer stem cells. This has major implications as current treatment strategies are largely decided based upon classification systems tailored according to morphological characteristics of the tumor. The different genetic profiles of such tumor stem cells might explain variability of treatment response and points to the existence of different genetic brain tumor subtypes which one is unable to discern based on current classification systems. As such, they now have a stable collection of such cells to enable investigative efforts in drug screening. Their lab is also engaged in deciphering chemoresistance mechanisms and in discovery of novel markers for identification of these cells.
Brenner Centre for Molecular Medicine
30 Medical Drive, Singapore 117609
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