June 21, 2023

McFarland receives R01 to study human microbiome in brain tumors

Written by

Braden McFarland low resolutionBraden McFarland, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Cell, Developmental, and Integrative Biology, and co-director of the UAB Undergraduate Cancer Biology Program, was recently awarded a $1.6 million R01 grant funded over five years from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

McFarland's project, titled "Employing Humanized Microbiome Mice to Understand Immune Activation and Translational Therapeutic Potential in Glioblastoma," will study the role of human gut microbes in mouse models of glioblastoma, a deadly primary brain tumor, and determine how the human microbiome affects immunotherapy efficacy.

Immunotherapy has shown promise in some cancers; however, it has not proven effective in patients with glioblastoma. The gut microbiome composition plays a role in the efficacy of immunotherapy. While immunotherapy works well in glioblastoma pre-clinical mouse models, the efficacy does not mirror the same in humans due to the significant differences between mouse and human microbial gut compositions.

Through the funding of this grant, McFarland's proposal seeks to identify optimal microbial gut compositions to rescue resistance to immunotherapy for patients with glioblastoma. She will do this by utilizing a novel humanized microbiome model to uncover the human microbial-immune mechanisms of response to immunotherapies in glioblastoma pre-clinical models, including T-cell and tumor associated macrophages and microglia, and assess if responder microbiomes can be exploited and used therapeutically.

McFarland earned her Ph.D. in neurobiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her research interests have centered on glioblastoma tumors and discovering new therapies for glioblastoma patients.