Marta Penas-Prado, M.D., M.Sc.
- Center for Cancer Research
- National Cancer Institute
- Building 82, Room 213
- Bethesda, MD 20892
Dr. Penas-Prado is a neuro-oncologist focused on caring for patients with rare brain and spine tumors in the NCI-CONNECT (Comprehensive Oncology Network Evaluating Rare CNS Tumors) program at the Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB). Her clinical research seeks to uncover the molecular underpinnings of rare central nervous system (CNS) tumors, better understand these diseases, and develop clinical trials to come up with more effective therapies. Rare tumors frequently present clinical challenges, due to issues such as poorly defined options for upfront treatment and recurrence, and limited access to specialized care and clinical trials.
Beyond the NOB, Dr. Penas-Prado enjoys collaborating with a multidisciplinary team of neuropathologists, neuroradiologists, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, genetic counselors, and others to provide the best possible care for her patients and establish a care team with their local physicians. She also leads a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional tumor board to discuss complex neuro-oncology cases.
Areas of Expertise
Information for Patients
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At the Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB) and NCI-CONNECT (Comprehensive Oncology Network Evaluating Rare CNS Tumors) clinic, Dr. Penas-Prado’s research is focused on developing clinical trials for patients with rare central nervous system (CNS) tumors, with a specific interest in adult medulloblastoma and ependymoma. Within this area, she is currently the principal investigator on a trial that evaluates the efficacy of nivolumab on select rare central nervous system tumors. The trial was initially only open at the NIH, but has since converted into a multi-center study through the Brain Tumor Trials Collaborative (BTTC) led by the NOB. The goal of this trial is to come closer to discovering the patient populations or tumor subtypes that are sensitive to nivolumab treatment, which specifically targets the protein PD-1 to boost immune function. The trial will also involve collecting data for correlative studies to assess immune function from blood and tumor tissue, through which Dr. Penas-Prado hopes to determine why immunotherapy is unsuccessful in certain patients—as well as how we can enhance responses in those who respond well.
The second facet of Dr. Penas-Prado’s research is a multi-center tumor tissue and clinical outcomes research project to retrospectively collect and analyze tumor tissue and detailed clinical information from patients with rare CNS tumors who are already deceased. The goal of this work is to eventually correlate the molecular characteristics obtained by performing analysis on the tumor tissue with treatment and outcomes. She hopes that having a record of the tumor tissue—along with clinical information from the patient’s in-person visits—may result in a better understanding of the natural history as well as the molecular risk factors associated with the tumor. Dr. Penas-Prado is confident that this collaborative study will help better define the prognostic groups based on molecular and clinical data and improve standard of care for rare CNS tumor patients.
In addition, Dr. Penas-Prado is collaborating with Shlomit Yust-Katz in Israel to collect and analyze tumor tissue and clinical data on women who were pregnant at the time of diagnosis with a primary brain tumor, or who became pregnant after being diagnosed or during treatment. The goal of this research is to collect data about the influence of pregnancy on the prognosis of patients with primary brain tumors, and analyze the mechanisms by which pregnancy alters tumor biology.
Clinical characterization of adult medulloblastoma and the effect of first-line therapies on outcome; The MD Anderson Cancer Center experience.
Proceedings of the Comprehensive Oncology Network Evaluating Rare CNS Tumors (NCI-CONNECT) Adult Medulloblastoma Workshop.
Optimizing eligibility criteria and clinical trial conduct to enhance clinical trial participation for primary brain tumor patients.
Marta Penas-Prado, M.D., M.Sc.
Dr. Penas-Prado received her Doctor of Medicine degree from Universidad de Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and was committed to the field of neurology very early in her educational training. She began a neurology residency at Hospital Universitario Doce de Octubre, also in Spain, and had the opportunity to be a clinical observer at The University of Texas’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, where she was introduced to the field of neuro-oncology. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Penas-Prado returned to Spain to practice as a neurologist at two different hospitals: Hospital Universitario Doce de Octubre and Hospital General La Mancha Centro. She returned to MD Anderson to complete a three-year fellowship in neuro-oncology, where she became involved in a large retrospective research project looking at adult medulloblastoma patients. Dr. Penas-Prado then returned to Madrid, Spain to practice as a neuro-oncologist and receive a master’s degree in molecular oncology from the Spanish National Cancer Research Center and Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. A few years later, she accepted a position at MD Anderson as an assistant professor in the Department of Neuro-Oncology. She was later promoted to associate professor, and served as the clinical research director of neuro-oncology before joining the Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB) in 2018, where she is now the senior clinician at the NCI-CONNECT (Comprehensive Oncology Network Evaluating Rare CNS Tumors) clinic.
In addition to her commitment to caring for patients with central nervous system (CNS) tumors—specifically those with rare diseases—Dr. Penas-Prado has also served as a principal investigator on numerous investigator-initiated, industry-sponsored, and cooperative clinical trials. She has also served as an editor and reviewer for scientific journals such as Neuro-Oncology, the Journal of Neuro-Oncology, and Neuro-Oncology Practice, and as a scientific reviewer of abstracts submitted to neurology and neuro-oncology meetings.
Dr. Penas-Prado has been a presenter for multiple educational lectures and scientific abstracts conducted at the NIH as well as national and international meetings. She has mentored over fifty medical students, clinical residents, and fellows during their neuro-oncology training. In addition, Dr. Penas-Prado led a workshop on adult medulloblastoma, a rare CNS tumor, to bring together advocates, clinicians, and scientists to review gaps in knowledge and discuss specific goals advance the field.
Honors, Awards and Leadership
- Lead Physician, NCI-CONNECT Clinic
- CCR Staff Clinician Scientific and Leadership Merit Award – 2022
- Coordinator, weekly web-based Multidisciplinary Tumor Board and Journal Club NIH/BTTC – since April 2020
- Working Group Leader, NCI-CONNECT Survivorship Care in Neuro-Oncology Symposium – June 2021
- Workshop Chair, NCI/SNO Transdisciplinary Global Research in Rare CNS Tumors – 09/2020
- Workshop Chair, NCI-CONNECT Adult Medulloblastoma Workshop – November 2019
- Nominated for the Irwin H. Krakoff Award for Excellence in Clinical Research, Faculty Recognition and Awards Program, Division of Cancer Medicine, The UT MD Anderson Cancer Center – 2016
- Nominated for the Melvin L. Samuels Award for Excellence in Patient Care, Faculty Recognition and Awards Program, Division of Cancer Medicine, The UT MD Anderson Cancer Center – 2014, 2015, 2017
- Travel Grant, 9th EANO Meeting – 2010
- Travel Grant, EORTC/EANO Conference – 2009
Select Societies and Initiatives
- Society for Neuro-Oncology (SNO) (2011-present)
- Grupo Español de Neurooncologia (2010-present)
- Grupo Español de Investigacion en Neurooncologia (2009-present)
- American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) (2006-present)