RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Carl Koschmann, M.D.

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Carl Koschmann, MD

Assistant Professor, Pediatric Neuro-Oncology, University of Michigan

  1. Where are you from?/Where did you study?

I was born in Wisconsin, and raised mostly in Illinois.  My study has traversed many of the Big Ten institutions – undergraduate at University of Illinois, Medical School at University of Wisconsin and Pediatric Oncology Fellowship at the University of Michigan.  My break from the Big Ten was Pediatric Residency at Seattle Children’s/University of Washington.

  1. What are you researching right now?

I am a Pediatric Neuro-Oncologist and researcher at the University of Michigan.  I am primarily researching precision medicine in pediatric high-grade glioma and DIPG and how to improve the selection and monitoring of precision medicine therapies for these tumors.  When drugs are applied based on the genetic fingerprint of the tumor cell, they can work much more effectively (and selectively).  But in DIPG, the leap from cell culture (in vitro) to working in the patient is a large chasm.  My lab is trying to figure out how to bridge that gap more effectively.  We are modeling DIPG in mice and attempting to use other drugs to “carry” the active agents into the tumors.

As well, we are exploring how to better monitor when therapies for DIPG are working.  We (and our collaborators) think spinal fluid analysis can add clarity to traditional MRI imaging, and our current work is focused on exploring spinal fluid tumor DNA to document treatment response and predict tumor progression.   We discuss these experiments and the application of precision medicine therapies for children with high-risk brain tumors (including DIPG) in the U of M Brain Tumor Precision Medicine Conference, which we teleconference.   I am hopeful that the collaborative environment of DIPG research, as embodied by the DIPG Registry, is opening the door to improved outcomes for kids with DIPG, who dearly need them.

  1. Who is your all-time favorite scientist and why?

Robert Weinberg (MIT) established many of the big oncogenes and tumor suppressors, and built a foundation for me for cancer study through description of the genetic “hallmarks” of cancer.

  1. What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to build forts and listen to music (probably too loudly) with my 4 and 7 year old sons. I like to rock climb and play Ultimate Frisbee, which I realize our cliché activities for someone who lives in a college town.

  1. Favorite food?

Peanut butter. Coffee.

  1. Why science?

Why not science?!  Science was always intrinsically easy for me to appreciate and get excited about.  Cell biology and genetics pulled me in because there is the right combination of understood rules and framework (to get started) combined with room for discovery (the unknown).

  1. Who/What has inspired you to work on DIPG?

Jim Olson (Seattle Children’s) gets a lot of the credit – I obtained an interest and passion for pediatric neuro-oncology clinical care and research as a resident working with him.  That pulled me into the field and into research.  The children with DIPG and their families have pushed me to work on this tumor in particular.

  1. What are you reading right now?

End Zone by Don DeLillo, a novel from the 80s about a tailback on a football team in a small college team in Texas.  He is a fantastic protagonist, it’s like taking Holden Caufield into a pure football culture.  My older brother always gives me books about sports, including this one for which I credit as a good recommendation.

  1. If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering a research career, what would it be?

I did not go into medicine to do research, but it found me nevertheless.  This is a case for giving it a try if it’s on your radar.  Research is arduous and tedious and occasionally awesome.

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