Oren J. Becher, MD
Oren J. Becher Departments / Divisions
  • Pediatrics / Pediatrics-Hematology/Oncology
  • Pathology

  • Training
  • MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Maryland), 2000

  • Residency
  • Pediatrics, Children's National Medical Center (Washington, DC), 2003

  • Fellowship
  • Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Cornell/ Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York), 2006
  • Pediatric Neuro-Oncology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York), 2007

  • For More Information on Oren J. Becher, MD www.dukehealth.org/physicians/oren_josh_becher

    Reseacher Q&A- Oren Becher, M.D.


    There are increasing numbers of researchers becoming interested and involved in DIPG research. The Cristian Rivera Foundation plans to regularly interview researchers regarding their work and their vision for DIPG research. Because of his significant and broad focus on DIPG, the first researcher to be featured is Dr. Oren Becher from Duke University. Dr Becher spends 90% of his time in his lab and 10% clinically. His lab focuses exclusively on pediatric DIPG.


    CRF: I understand your lab is working exclusively on DIPG research, right?


    Dr Becher: Yes, my lab is exclusively working on DIPG research (there are six of us currently including myself).   I am finding that working only on DIPG is still a very broad topic.  For example, one can:

    • analyze the human tumors using a variety of genomic tools,
    • study the development of the normal mouse/human brainstem,
    • develop improved mouse models for DIPG,
    • evaluate novel drugs,
    • and you can study the blood-brain-barrier, a big obstacle in the treatment of DIPG.

    My lab is working in all these areas.


    CRF:  What are your research projects and how does that help unravel DIPG?


    Dr Becher: We have several research projects:

    1. The development of improved mouse models for DIPG.  Human DIPGs are heterogeneous and we are aiming to model different subsets of the human disease.  Our primary model is driven by PDGF signaling with loss of p53 (the two most common genetic alterations in the human disease).

    2. The development of mice with brainstem gliomas but without key blood brain barrier (BBB) proteins to determine if these BBB proteins are a big barrier for drug delivery.

    3.  Drug screens- This is the translational arm of the lab where we evaluate novel targeted agents first in vitro (on plastic dishes) and then in vivo (in mice with DIPG).  It is very common for a drug to work in vitro but no in vivo (hence our interest in project #2).

    4.  Using the mouse modeling technique we can make gliomas anywhere in the mouse brain.  We have used that to our advantage by comparing murine DIPGs to gliomas induced in other p

    arts of the mouse brain to identify genes unique to brainstem gliomagenesis.  We are now studying the function of some of these genes.

    5.  Studying the genetic alterations of human DIPG- this project is in collaboration with other researchers.


    CRF: You are part of the DIPG PreClinical Consortium. How do you see this helping DIPG towards a cure?


    Dr Becher:  Up until recently, decisions regarding the choice of drugs to be evaluated in clinical trials for DIPG have been primarily based on preclinical trials in adult cell-lines, i.e we have been assuming that DIPG tumor cells will be sensitive to the same drugs that adult glioma tumor cells are sensitive to. In addition we have made similar assumptions with regards to pediatric glioma cell-lines that arise in the cortex.  This consortium is a step forward as all the preclinical evaluations are done either in human DIPG cells or a DIPG mouse model.   In addition, the drugs that were chosen were drugs that can be easily translated into a clinical trial as the goal of the consortium is to identify a promising combination to move to a trial in a short period of time (approx. 2 years).


    CRF: What are the unmet needs for DIPG research currently?


    Dr Becher:  DIPG research is underfunded. So encouraging the NIH to increase its funding of research on DIPG will be helpful.   Encouraging the government to provide better incentives for pharmaceutical companies to support the development of novel agents for DIPG can also be useful.  


    CRF:  What can parents and advocates do to help you in your work?


    IDr BecherParents and advocates should continue to encourage collaboration among researchers.  Overall, over the past few years, parents and advocates have done a nice job of increasing awareness about the limited research that is being carried out on DIPG (partly due to the limited tumor tissue available) and there are now more tumor donations and increasing numbers of researchers that study DIPG.

    Note- At the time of Cristian’s death his tumor was given to Dr Becher’s lab for the advancement of DIPG research.   The Cristian Rivera Foundation has chosen to provide continued support through additional funding of Dr Becher’s research.