Durbin Meets With Northwestern Researcher Who Led Breakthrough In Brain Cancer Treatment

Made possible by funding from NIH that Durbin helped secure, Dr. Sonabend’s breakthrough allows chemotherapy drugs to bypass the blood-brain barrier to reach brain tumors

CHICAGO – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with Dr. Adam Sonabend, Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, to discuss a major breakthrough in research into treating glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer that is diagnosed in about 12,000 Americans annually, including former U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA).

Glioblastoma is difficult to treat as the tumor often cannot be completely removed with surgery because of its location.  Further, the blood-brain barrier, a border of specialized cells, prevents substances like chemotherapy drugs from effectively crossing into the brain for treatment.  However, researchers at Northwestern—led by Dr. Sonabend—found a way to safely deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to brain tumors using a novel, skull-implantable ultrasound device to open the blood-brain barrier.  This approach allows researchers to hit patients’ tumors with chemotherapy drugs that are 1,000-times higher than possible with traditional chemotherapy and has, so far, been well-tolerated by patients. 

“Dr. Sonabend’s work is nothing short of a field-changing breakthrough.  This advancement holds incredible promise for families battling glioblastoma and other neurological diseases and conditions, like ALS or Alzheimer’s.  The weight of Dr. Sonabend’s work cannot be overstated,” said Durbin. “This discovery is a prime example of why we must continue to properly fund our nation’s medical research institutions and why short-sighted proposals advanced by congressional Republicans to slash federal funding for medical research must be rejected. 

A photo of the meeting is available here. 

Durbin, author of the American Cures Act, has long been a supporter of medical research, and he has continuously worked on a bipartisan basis to ensure that the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which made Dr. Sonabend’s research possible, and federal research institutes have the proper funding to help develop new cures and treatments for patients in need.  With the bipartisan support of former Republican Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Democratic Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Durbin has helped secure a nearly 60 percent funding increase for NIH over the past eight years. 

The Default on America Act, which was recently passed and championed by House Republicans, could result in a 22 percent funding decrease for NIH, as well as other medical research agencies.  Slashing medical research funding would halt research, delay new cures and treatments, and shutter labs across the country.