Transforming the Treatment of Brain Cancer

Debra Chênevert and Louis ChênevertIn 2019, more than ninety Yale scientists gathered to discuss the current state of brain tumor research—the latest promising discoveries, the most advanced methods, and the significant contributions of Yale’s research and clinical programs. The group identified several strategies through which Yale could remain at the forefront of progress in this field, including leveraging artificial intelligence, designing nanoparticles for drug delivery and gene editing, and engaging the immune system. The outcome is the establishment of a new brain tumor center dedicated to addressing the unique set of challenges posed by brain cancer.

Part of the Yale Cancer Center and made possible by a generous gift from Louis and Debra Chênevert, along with the Chênevert Family Foundation, the Chênevert Family Brain Tumor Center aims to develop scientific innovations that will set new standards for the diagnosis, treatment, and care of patients with brain tumors.

“Yale is engaged in truly game-changing cancer research,” says Louis Chênevert. “My family and I are thrilled to support this new center, which we know will accelerate discoveries and usher in new treatments.”

“From basic scientists to translational and clinical researchers, Yale has an impressive array of talented investigators doing pioneering work on brain tumors,” says Nancy J. Brown ’81, the Jean and David W. Wallace Dean of the Yale School of Medicine. “Louis Chênevert and his family have been ardent advocates of the Yale Cancer Center, and I am thankful for their support of Yale’s neuro-oncology research.”

Teaming up on brain cancer

In the United States, approximately 24,000 people are diagnosed with a malignant primary brain tumor every year, while 210,000 are diagnosed with brain metastases—cancer that has spread to the brain from elsewhere in the body. For most, outcomes will be poor, which is why new treatments are so essential.

To develop new, more effective treatments, researchers are seeking a better understanding of the complex biology of brain tumor cells and their interactions with the brain environment and immune system. This requires collaboration among researchers across numerous disciplines—such as neuroscience, genetics, immunobiology, pharmacology, and drug development. “What sets the Chênevert Family Brain Tumor Center apart is Yale’s tremendously deep pool of talent,” says Charles Fuchs, who recently stepped down as director of the Yale Cancer Center. “We have visionary researchers in each of these critical areas, and we have the ability to directly test new treatments through clinical trials, all of which will be necessary for moving the dial on brain cancer treatment.”

The new center’s work, which will be guided by the director of the Yale Cancer Center and a scientific advisory board, encompasses three of the university’s top science priorities: neuroscience, inflammation science, and data science. Inflammation science, and immunobiology more generally, will be key to understanding how the body generates—or fails to generate—a successful immune response. Data science will help researchers make full use of the reams of data they collect and pinpoint new strategies for treatment. “The center will also reach out to Yale scientists in relevant fields who are not necessarily focused on cancer research but whose insights can advance our work. We want to ensure their knowledge is integrated with that of our brain cancer specialists,” says Fuchs.

Dedicated support

Louis Chênevert has served on the Yale Cancer Center Board of Advisors since 1999 and has chaired the board for the past seven years. He has also supported the center’s Discovery Fund as well as other research endeavors at Yale. “I’m honored Louis recognizes that Yale has the critical mass needed to usher in real progress,” says Fuchs. “We have all of the ingredients needed to transform the landscape of disease and treatment development, and the Chêneverts’ gift empowers all of our exceptional talent to work together toward this mission.”

April 26, 2021