An award for our brain cancer team recognises research into one of the nastiest childhood cancers. Our team will test potential new treatments on tiny soccer balls of cells.

Last night Cancer Council NSW’s annual Research Awards were held in Sydney with 15 ground-breaking cancer research projects awarded across a range of cancers, including childhood cancer. The grants help fund future breakthroughs in cancer research, with some of Australia’s leading research teams paving the way for new ways to treat the disease.

One of the successful teams was our own Targeted Therapy Research Group led by clinician-researcher A/Prof David Ziegler, shown above receiving the award.

Their project ‘Developing a new therapy to treat diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas, the most aggressive of all childhood cancers’ received a grant co-funded by Cancer Australia, Cancer Council NSW and The Kids’ Cancer project. While the $600K grant* was announced last year by Cancer Australia, last night’s event was a chance to recognise A/Prof Ziegler’s success and his team’s research starting in earnest. Cancer Council NSW partner with Cancer Australia to fund Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer grants to make community raised research funds go further and to target under-researched cancers.

Neurospheres to test DIPG treatments

Neuroblastoma cells cultured in our labs

David’s team have cultured in the lab some unique cultures of DIPG cancer cells to help them. Tiny balls of cancer cells called neurospheres will be tested with potential anti-cancer drugs as the team search for new treatments for childhood brain cancer Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). DIPG is the most aggressive childhood cancer and currently has no cure.

DIPG mostly affects children 2-5 years old and almost all children die within 1-2 years. There’s a desperate need for treatments as A/Prof David Ziegler knows only too well. When not in the lab at Children’s Cancer Institute, he’s seeing children and families on the ward at Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick.

David’s team of researchers and collaborators will gather data needed to progress potential drug fenretinide, a synthetic retinoid, in combination with other drugs into clinical trials. David is excited at the prospect of testing fenritinide’s potential.

“Fenretinide is among the few safest, most effective of 3500 drugs tested against DIPG neurospheres cultured in our labs, the largest drug screen ever performed for DIPG. But a lot more research needs to be done before it’s assessed for use in the clinic for DIPG.

“We’re thankful for the funding from Cancer Australia, Cancer Council NSW and The Kids’ Cancer Project. Our goal is to one day curing all children with this horrible cancer and this is an important step along the way”, he said.

DIPG research is a global team effort. The project draws on expertise from Children’s Cancer Institute and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick along with researchers in the UK, US and Spain who are leading experts in DIPG, drug testing and retinoid therapy. David is himself part of an international collaborative of DIPG researchers kicking goals against the disease, now and into the future.

Read more about brain cancers and how we’re working toward a cure.

*This grant #1126580 was awarded through the Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme and co-funded by Cancer Australia, Cancer Council NSW and The Kids’ Cancer Project.

Top image: A/Prof David Ziegler (centre) receiving his award from representatives of Cancer Australia (Acting CEO, A/Prof Christine Giles in background), Cancer Council NSW (on left Chairman, Mark Phillips) and The Kids’ Cancer Project (on right CEO, Owen Finnegan).



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