Current Research Projects

A Multi-Center Collaborative Study to Determine the Sensitivity and Specificity of Plasma and Cerebrospinal Fluid Exosome EGFRvIII Detection Compared to Tissue EGFRvIII Detection by qPCR Assay of Exosomal RNA
Principal Investigator: Reid C. Thompson, MD

Exosomes are small membrane vesicles that are thought to play important roles in intercellular communications. The goal of the study is to determine the sensitivity for detection of brain tumor specific mutations in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) exosomes for the diagnosis and monitoring of patients with glial tumors. During the study samples of tumor, plasma and CSF are collected from glioma patients during a routine surgical procedure. Specific aims of the study include: 1) Evaluation of EGFRvIII status in plasma, CSF and tumor exosomes. 2) Determination of sensitivity and specificity of blood plasma and CSF exosome EGFRvIII detection compared to the tissue EGFRvIII detection. 3) Correlation of tissue, plasma and CSF exosomal EGFRvIII status with relevant clinical parameters.

Brain Tumor Outcomes Program
Principal Investigator: Lola Chambless MD

The Vanderbilt Brain Tumor Outcomes Program was established in 2010 with the goal of optimizing care for patients with brain tumors while deepening understanding of the pathologic principles guiding tumor development and progression. We work with an extensive database of over 3000 patients with brain tumors of varying pathologies, prospectively collecting information regarding risk factors, treatment variables, and immediate and long term outcomes. We also study the effect of socioeconomic factors on brain tumor prognosis and treatment in an effort to promote high quality, cost effective care. Importantly, we also collaborate with basic scientists in the departments of cancer biology, radiology, and engineering to develop novel means of optimizing surgical resections and predicting tumor behavior.

Characterization of cell subpopulations in Glioblastoma
Principal Investigators: Rebecca Ihrie PhD and Lola Chambless MD

Glioblastoma is a common and devastating brain tumor with a poor prognosis even in the setting of aggressive therapy. Our hypothesis is that glioblastomas contain numerous subpopulations of cells with the ability to propagate tumor progression, leading to easy evasion of conventional therapeutic interventions. Using novel cytometric techniques, we are comprehensively identifying functionally distinct tumor cell subsets which will offer insights into mechanisms of relapse as well as variations in tumor microenvironments. The goal of this work is ultimately to drive fundamental shifts in the treatment of this disease.

Optical Stimulation of Neural Tissue
Principal Investigator: Peter Konrad, M.D., Ph.D.

For over a century, the traditional method of stimulating neural activity has been based on electrical methods, which has undergone few modifications over the years and remains the gold standard to date. We report a technological breakthrough in neural stimulation that uses low intensity infrared laser light to elicit compound nerve and muscle potentials instead of electrical energy. We show that infrared laser light at relative valleys of tissue absorption can be used to consistently and reproducibly stimulate peripheral nerves in frogs and rats in vivo with no appreciable tissue damage using radiant exposures well below ablation threshold. Results demonstrate optical stimulation can circumvent many of the limitations of electrical stimulation, including lack of spatial specificity and electrical artifacts that limit data analysis and make simultaneous excitation and recording from adjacent nerve fibers difficult.


Reid C. Thompson, MD
William F. Meacham Professor of Neurological Surgery
Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery
Director of Neurosurgical Oncology
Professor of Otolaryngology, VUMC
Publications on Pubmed


Kyle D. Weaver, MD
Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery, VUMC
Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology, VUMC
Publications on PubMed


Jialiang Wang, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery and Cancer Biology
Director, Neurosurgical Oncology Laboratory
Publications on PubMed


Lola B. Chambless, MD
Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery, VUMC
Publications on PubMed