From 13 to 17 April, 2019, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) had its annual scientific meeting where members came to present and share information on new innovations and advancement in neuroscience research. One of the major highlights was the research presentation by US-based Nigerian doctor and neuroscientist, Chibawanye Ene, titled: “Anti-PD-L1 Immunotherapy Enhances Radiation-induced Abscopal Response in Glioblastoma”.
According to Applied Radiation Oncology, a quarterly journal on cancer, Ene’s research shows that “radiation combined with Anti PD L1 therapy induces an immunological response to unirradiated glioblastoma”. Consequently, his work has been hailed as a promising treatment option for deadly brain tumours, earning him the prestigious Ronald L. Bittner Award for 2019
Road to recognition
Glioblastoma, also known as Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), is the most aggressive cancer that begins within the brain and is the second most common cancer of the central nervous system after meningioma. About three out of every 100,000 people develop the disease a year. It occurs more commonly in males than females and it most often begins around the age of 64 years. Most patients with the disease survive approximately one year, and only 5 per cent live for more than 5 years.
Standard first-line treatment for GBM is surgery, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy, usually with the drug Temozolomide. However, the disease recurs in almost all patients after treatment. Many efforts had been made to explore other standard ways of treating the disease with little or no success. However, Ene’s ground-breaking research on Immunotherapy in GBM treatment has has been tipped to soon become the long-awaited second-line treatment option for the disease. Researchers are currently optimising other treatment combinations with Ene’s research findings that could also be readily assessed in phase I human clinical trials.
Background and career
Dr Ene was born and raised in Benin, Nigeria. He moved to the United States for college education in 2000 and completed his undergraduate studies at Wayne State College, Nebraska, USA with a major in Biology in 2004. That same year after graduating, he began medical school at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, USA. In his third year, he received a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Fellowship to study the biology of glioblastoma-derived stem cells at the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland, in 2007.
Ene received continued support through the NIH to continue his work for another four years towards a PhD at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. After obtaining his doctorate degree in 2012, he returned to Indiana University for his final year of medical school and earned his medical degree (MD) in 2013.
Ene is currently a post-doctoral research fellow of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, a prestigious institution where interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. He is currently based at the Holland Lab.
Ene’s research interests include understanding the pathogenesis of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common primary brain tumours in adults. He is exploring conditions that synergise radiation therapy and immunotherapy for GBM treatment and evaluating susceptibility and resistance mechanisms of various GBM molecular subtypes to immunotherapy, including genetically engineered T cells and checkpoint inhibitors.
Awards and recognitions
Dr Ene is a recipient of many awards, including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Scholar (Cloister Programme), Bethesda, Maryland, USA (2007); National Institutes of Health / Oxford / Cambridge Research Scholarship, Bethesda, Maryland, USA (2008); Best Poster in Biochemistry’ at annual graduate student research symposium; and the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA (2012), Goodman Scholarship for Excellence in Neurosurgery, Indiana University School of medicine, Indianapolis, USA (2012).
Ene is happily married to Rachael Ene, and they blessed with two boys. He enjoys watching soccer, is an avid Chelsea FC fan and enjoys spending time with his family in his free time.