An Old Foe May Be a New Friend: How One NIH Cambridge Scholar’s Research Holds Promise for Children with Cancer

A modified oncolytic herpes virus (oHSV) G207, alone and in combination with radiation, has been shown to be well tolerated with early signs of clinical effectiveness in pediatric patients with high-grade brain tumors finds a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month. “This is the first study utilizing a viral immunotherapy delivered directly into brain tumors in children. This work paves the way for an expanded Phase 2 and a litany of additional Phase 1 trials targeting unique pediatric CNS tumors and/or locations within the brain” says study coauthor Dr. Joshua Bernstock.  “These results are truly exciting and represent a leap forward in the treatment of malignant pediatric brain tumors”. Dr. Bernstock was also co-first author on a new PLOS Biology paper published on April 7, 2021. This data provided the first evidence that NSCs (Neural stem cells) deliver functional mitochondria to target cells via EVs, paving the way for the development of novel (a)cellular approaches aimed at restoring mitochondrial dysfunction not only in multiple sclerosis, but also in degenerative neurological diseases. 

Dr. Bernstock conducted his doctoral research on neuroprotection induced by certain classes of post-translational modifications at the University of Cambridge and the National Institutes of Health as an NIH OxCam Scholar. After completing his PhD, he went on to finish medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham were he also performed postdoctoral work examining the role of oHSVs as therapeutics in pediatric brain tumors under the mentorship of Dr. Gregory Friedman.  

Dr. Bernstock is currently a neurosurgery resident at Brigham and Women’s and Boston Children’s Hospitals in Boston and intends to focus on pediatric neurosurgical oncology. A new parent himself, Dr. Bernstock said “I remain dedicated to translational science/medicine and it is my driving desire to improve outcomes for children with brain tumors by developing and improving novel, targeted therapies.”