A surprise birthday gift of $189,000 will help us work on improving treatment for one of the deadliest childhood cancers.

The DIPG Collaborative partners, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation  and The Cure Starts Now (Australian Chapter), presented our researchers Dr Han Shen and Dr Maria Tsoli with a very big cheque ($143,884 in US dollars) at our 40th anniversary celebration a few weeks ago. The researchers were all smiles.

Han, a postdoctoral fellow in the Targeted Therapy program, says the grant will fund research into how to boost the cell-killing effects of radiotherapy on brain cancer DIPG.

Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) is the most aggressive of all childhood cancers and the leading cause of brain tumour-related death in children. Each year, there are about 20-30 new DIPG diagnoses in Australia. Radiotherapy is the only standard therapy but, while it offers temporary benefit, almost all DIPGs come back within a year and the patient dies from the disease. The researchers’ strategy is to make radiotherapy more effective by targeting glitches in cancer cells’ glucose metabolism.

Maximising radiotherapy’s effectiveness

“Our research has shown that a drug called dichloroacetate makes DIPG cells more sensitive to radiotherapy and a clinical trial recently revealed it worked well in patients with recurrent malignant gliomas.

“Not only that, when taken as a tablet, dichloroacetate has fewer side-effects in young children than adults. That makes testing the radiotherapy and dichloroacetate combination a priority for DIPG in children” he said.

Han and Maria and team will also explore if dichloroacetate’s effectiveness is further enhanced by adding in other carefully selected clinically-available drugs, maximising radiotherapy’s cell-killing powers.

The results from this project will likely be translated to a clinical trial and may lead to a change in treatment regimes. The ultimate goal is improving survival rates for children with DIPG – truly a gift worth giving.

Find out more about our DIPG research and read our children’s stories page to see the toll this disease takes on children and families.

Pic: L to R – Dr Maria Tsoli, Dr Han Shen, Dr David Ziegler all from Children’s Cancer Institute, Barry Littlefield (Cure Brain Cancer Foundation) and Ren Pedersen (The Cure Starts Now).



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