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25 Years of Funding Excellence: Michelle Monje, M.D., Ph.D.

Why does research matter to me?

I take care of children and young adults with brain and spinal cord cancers in the clinic, and run a basic neuroscience lab focused on the origins of CNS cancers, factors in the nervous system that drive cancer progression, the ways that cancer therapy causes cognitive impairment and therapeutic strategies to better treat nervous system cancers and the neurological deficits that can result from cancer therapies. I have always been fascinated by the nervous system, and compelled to try to treat disease processes that disrupt nervous system function.

Research matters to me for the simple reason that we need to do better for our patients. Brain and spinal cord cancers are a leading cause of cancer-related death and disability. Some of the most common brain tumors are universally lethal. Research matters because we do not at the present moment understand nervous system cancers sufficiently to cure them. For people we can cure of cancer, the long term effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy are frequently debilitating, causing lasting deficits in cognitive function.

Research matters to me because I want to help my patients. To do that, we must further our understanding of the basic mechanisms that underlie healthy brain development, function and adaptability, and how these processes may be subverted in malignancy or impaired by cancer therapies. This is what my laboratory works to achieve, so that I might be able to offer more effective, safer therapy for people battling brain cancer and the aftermath of cancer therapy.