John S. “Steve” Dunn, Jr. and Dagmar Dunn Pickens Gipe Chair in Brain Tumor Research, Department of Neurosurgery
Professor of Neurosurgery, Academic Institute
Full Member, Research Institute
Weill Cornell Medical College
Dr. Rostomily has a long-standing commitment to brain cancer research. He graduated from Yale University in 1980 where his interest in biological sciences was sparked. To consider the options of a PhD versus medical school spent 3 years working in medical research labs before matriculating at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 1983 where he was supported by a United States Air Force Health Professions Scholarship. He then took a position as a neurosurgery resident at the University of Washington (UW) where to pursue his dual passions of neurosurgery and cancer biology. He naturally gravitated towards the study of human gliomas and during and immediately after residency training his research was supported by an NIH post-doctoral fellowship and the NYAM Elsberg Prize in Neurosurgery research. His studies during this time focused on unraveling the role of mis-expressed normal neural developmental control genes in human brain cancers.
After completing his active duty military commitment at Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio TX he took a faculty position in 1999 at the University of Washington Neurosurgery Department after a fellowship at George Washington University in Skull Base Surgery. In his 17 years at the UW he rose to the rank of full professor and served as the co-director of skull base surgery, gamma knife radiosurgery and held multiple positions in the UW Cancer Center, consortium with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and UW Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine. He garnered multiple NIH research grants as a PI including an R03, R21 and 3 R01s as well as multiple intramural and foundation grants. He was also a co-Investigator on an NIH R03, R21 and program project grant.
To further his clinical pursuits in radiosurgery of brain cancers and pursue additional research interests he took position at the Houston Methodist Hospital (HMH) and Research Institute (HMRI) in November 2016. Since then he established his lab with two key personnel from UW and also recruited an additional two post-doctoral fellows and support research assistant and lab manager to continue his vision. He successfully put in place a department wide neural tissue biorepository to support tumor and all other neural research at HMH. He also initiated a clinical trial for PET imaging of brain metastasis.
TWIST1-Identifying potential ways to treat human adult gliomas by inhibiting glioma cancer stem cells (GSCs). GSCS are the most potent and treatment resistant cell type in gliomas and account for the inevitable recurrence of these tumors after treatment. His lab has identified a key regulatory protein called TWIST1 that can be inhibited to nearly completely stop growth of experimental tumors. Their research now is focused on finding ways to attack TWIST1 function that can be used to treat brain cancer patients. This is an extremely powerful target since it drives processes that are central to glioma treatment resistance and progression.
Oncoslice- Developing tools to predict patient specific responses to therapy. In collaboration with bioengineers at the UW, their lab is testing the drug responses of patient specific tumor tissues cultured on a drug delivery device. The device is capable of simultaneously or sequentially delivering multiple drugs alone or in combinations to define the best approach an individual tumor. The development of this platform could transform the implementation of precision, or personalized, cancer medicine by providing a way to directly test and predict patient specific responses to drugs and thereby guide more effective therapies.