In the second post in a series profiling our emerging researchers, we meet Dr Han Shen who’s researching treatments for children with a terrible cancer.

Dr Han Shen joined our Targeted Therapy group eager to make a difference for children with brain cancer, particularly Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). Originally from Beijing and a medical doctor, Han’s clinical work showed him the desperate need for treatments for children with this terrible cancer.

DIPG is the most aggressive and deadly childhood cancer. Deemed ‘terminal on diagnosis’, it has no cure, no effective treatment and no hope of survival. In 30 years, almost nothing has changed for DIPG patients in terms of treatment or outcome. That’s why our research is so important.

“This brain cancer has no current cure. Radiation is the only standard treatment but my goal is to change that.”

“This brain cancer has no current cure. Radiation is the only standard treatment but my goal is to change that,” Han said.”

Grant success

DIPG collaborative cheque presentation

Han was thrilled to receive two major grants last year – from brain cancer charity The Cure Starts Now and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Han found that an approved drug for children called dichloroacetate (DCA) helps radiation kill DIPG cells in animal models. Next he’ll work with senior researchers including group leader, Associate Professor David Ziegler, to translate these early findings into clinical treatments.

“The results so far are very promising.”

“We want to test this drug in combination with other drugs and radiation. The results so far are very promising.”

“The project aims to ultimately change the standard therapy for DIPG. DCA has been used safely for other diseases in children. That could shorten the time to translate it into the clinic and bring us closer to a cure,” he said.

In June, Han and two fellow researchers from Children’s Cancer Institute will present their research progress at an international paediatric brain cancer conference in the US. This is a great honour and a wonderful opportunity to learn from other global leaders in the field to accelerate the search for a cure for childhood cancer.

Read more about our childhood cancer research teams and what they do.

Top image: Han Shen at work in the lab.



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