hankinson  lab members

Hankinson Laboratory 

Craniopharyngioma and Why Research is Needed

Adamantinomatous craniopharyngioma (ACP) is an intracranial neoplasm that afflicts both children and adults. In children, the largest age group is between the ages of 5 to 14. 

MRI figure of headArising from the sellar/suprasellar region of the brain, ACP is further characterized by both solid tumor and cystic (fluid) components. Due to its location and tendency to adhere to adjacent tissues, it behaves as a clinically aggressive tumor even though it is histologically benign.  

ACPs ability to damage nearby structures such as the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, and visual apparatus can lead to a myriad of cognitive and hormonal imbalances that negatively impact quality of life. Maximal safe surgical resection with or without radiation therapy (RT) is the current mainstay of clinical care. Unfortunately, reduced life expectancy and significantly poor quality of life are associated with ACP and current therapies. Currently, there are no established systemic therapies for ACP. Our lab is focused on identifying and translating safer and less debilitating treatment options for patients with ACP.

MRI Figure  ns hankinsonEmphasizing algorithmic transparency and interpretability, the Hankinson Lab harnesses Artificial Intelligence to pioneer research platforms which aid in the understanding of ACP.  Ranging from basic science to clinical applications, our work has led to an improved understanding of the underlying genetic complexity of ACP, prediction of ACP tumor presence in preoperative radiographic images, and identification of predictable Quality of Life longitudinal trajectories for ACP patients. By utilizing advanced computational methods we aim to provide a highly comprehensive picture of ACP and enable personalized medicine for this rare disease.

ACP has historically been a challenging tumor to study in the preclinical setting. As such, the development of preclinical tools to investigate the effects of therapeutic agents on ACP remains a priority. Work in our lab, and those of our fantastic collaborators (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/child-health/research/developmental-biology-and-cancer/developmental-biology-birth-defects/pituitary-development), is aimed to design and validate preclinical tool to help us identify novel therapies against ACP.

Another challenge to the study of ACP has been the lack of sufficient tissue and clinical data from which we can gain new knowledge. Because ACP is a relatively uncommon tumor, no single institution has been able to collect enough experience or biological data to develop novel therapies. In order to overcome this challenge, Dr. Hankinson started and leads a North American multi-center consortium that focuses solely on the improvement of therapies for pediatric craniopharyngioma: Advancing Treatment for Pediatric Craniopharyngioma. With the great help of colleagues and collaborators in pediatric neurosurgery and neuro-oncology, tissue samples, clinical data and quality of life information are shared with our team at the University of Colorado to help study tumor characteristics and behavior, and to find and test potential new medical therapies. 

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