Welcome to the Crane Lab

Pursuing Revolutionary Treatments for Brain Tumors

Standard of care treatments for patients with brain tumors include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, which can have devastating side effects. Immunotherapy is an appealing alternative given the demonstrated potential to specifically eliminate tumor cells, leaving healthy tissue unharmed. The mission of the Crane Lab is to develop novel cellular immunotherapies that are safer alternatives to standard approaches, thus improving outcomes for patients with central nervous system tumors.

Our focus is on circulating cells of myeloid lineage known as monocytes, and the tissue resident macrophages that they become. As a first line of defense against pathogens, the conditions early in immune responses can influence the phenotype and functions of macrophages. The subsequent interactions between monocyte/macrophages and other immune cells can significantly impact the quality and duration of immune responses. Monocytes and macrophages in cancer patients do not support robust immune cell activation, which we hypothesize may limit the efficacy of immunotherapies.


The recent press of The Cancer Moonshot Initiative has brought much needed attention to research aimed at discovering innovative cancer therapy strategies. To learn more about immunotherapy for patients with cancer and recent advances, please see https://www.cancerresearch.org/

To support brain tumor immunotherapy research, click here:


Myeloid cells in the tumor microenvironment

One of the aims of the Crane lab is the interrogation of pediatric and adult brain tumor patient samples for myeloid cell diversity and plasticity in circulation and in the tumor microenvironment. This information will inform the rational design of new immunotherapy targets, and could also improve clinical management of brain tumor patients.

Genetically engineered macrophages (GEM)

Our research group also evaluates the functions of genetically engineered macrophages (GEMs) to initiate and support immune responses to solid tumors. We hypothesize that GEMs may reverse immune suppression and synergize with other immune-based therapies. Our current approaches using this platform include evaluating their ability to support engineered CAR-T cell products, enhance endogenous cytotoxic immune cell activation, and reverse or reduce tumor-associated macrophage immunosuppression.

Using GEMs, we aim to develop a novel approach for patients with the most aggressive forms of brain tumors including glioblastoma in adult patients, as well as diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG), primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET) and atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors (AT/RT) in children. Common features of solid tumors suggest that successes in adult and pediatric brain tumor patients will translate to those harboring solid tumors in other locations.


Expert Rev Neurother. 2018 Jan 11;:1-9

Authors: Lieberman NAP, Vitanza NA, Crane CA

Hum Gene Ther. 2017 Feb;28(2):200-215

Authors: Moyes KW, Lieberman NA, Kreuser SA, Chinn H, Winter C, Deutsch G, Hoglund V, Watson R, Crane CA

Cancer Biol Ther. 2016 Dec;17(12):1253-1265

Authors: Haberthur K, Brennan K, Hoglund V, Balcaitis S, Chinn H, Davis A, Kreuser S, Winter C, Leary SE, Deutsch GH, Ellenbogen RG, Crane CA

Expert Rev Anticancer Ther. 2016 Jul;16(7):775-88

Authors: Lieberman NA, Moyes KW, Crane CA

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Sep 02;111(35):12823-8

Authors: Crane CA, Austgen K, Haberthur K, Hofmann C, Moyes KW, Avanesyan L, Fong L, Campbell MJ, Cooper S, Oakes SA, Parsa AT, Lanier LL

Neuro Oncol. 2014 Jan;16(2):274-9

Authors: Bloch O, Crane CA, Fuks Y, Kaur R, Aghi MK, Berger MS, Butowski NA, Chang SM, Clarke JL, McDermott MW, Prados MD, Sloan AE, Bruce JN, Parsa AT

Clin Cancer Res. 2013 Jun 15;19(12):3165-75

Authors: Bloch O, Crane CA, Kaur R, Safaee M, Rutkowski MJ, Parsa AT

Clin Cancer Res. 2013 Jan 01;19(1):205-14

Authors: Crane CA, Han SJ, Ahn B, Oehlke J, Kivett V, Fedoroff A, Butowski N, Chang SM, Clarke J, Berger MS, McDermott MW, Prados MD, Parsa AT

Neuro Oncol. 2010 Jan;12(1):7-13

Authors: Crane CA, Han SJ, Barry JJ, Ahn BJ, Lanier LL, Parsa AT

Cancer Res. 2010 Jun 15;70(12):5046-53

Authors: Panner A, Crane CA, Weng C, Feletti A, Fang S, Parsa AT, Pieper RO

Neuroreport. 2009 Dec 09;20(18):1597-602

Authors: Han SJ, Ahn BJ, Waldron JS, Yang I, Fang S, Crane CA, Pieper RO, Parsa AT

Cancer Res. 2009 Oct 15;69(20):7911-6

Authors: Panner A, Crane CA, Weng C, Feletti A, Parsa AT, Pieper RO

J Neurosurg. 2008 Feb;108(2):299-303

Authors: Chi JH, Panner A, Cachola K, Crane CA, Murray J, Pieper RO, James CD, Parsa AT

J Neuroimmunol. 2007 Sep;189(1-2):75-87

Authors: Schell JB, Crane CA, Smith MF, Roberts MR

Nat Med. 2007 Jan;13(1):84-8

Authors: Parsa AT, Waldron JS, Panner A, Crane CA, Parney IF, Barry JJ, Cachola KE, Murray JC, Tihan T, Jensen MC, Mischel PS, Stokoe D, Pieper RO