Professor David Ziegler is Group Leader of the Brain Tumours Group at Children's Cancer Institute, and Chair of Clinical Trials for the Zero Childhood Cancer Program, co-led by Children's Cancer Institute and Sydney Children's Hospital Randwick (SCH). He also holds a conjoint appointment with UNSW in the Faculty of Medicine. He is head of the neuro-oncology program at Sydney Children’s Hospital, and runs the clinical trials program at the Kids Cancer Centre.
A senior paediatric oncologist in the Kids Cancer Centre, David completed his clinical training at SCH before moving to the US to take up a position as a Fulbright Scholar at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston. His extensive clinical experience informs and motivates his research, which is highly translational.
‘My research is driven by the patients I see in clinic every day. I’m focused on developing new therapies we can get into the clinic to help children with high-risk cancers. Too many children are still suffering and dying – that’s what we need to change,’ he explains.
David’s research at the Institute is focused on developing targeted therapies for brain cancers, particularly DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma), the most aggressive and incurable of all childhood cancers. In 2013, he established Australia’s first research program for DIPG, collecting and growing tumour samples from children around Australia and screening drugs against these to identify potential new therapies. He is now looking to find which combinations of these drugs work best.
An important focus of David’s work is developing new clinical trials that bring research discoveries into the clinic to treat children with the most aggressive cancers. He has developed and led several innovative national and international trials for children with brain tumours, leukaemia, and solid tumours. He is the clinical lead of trials run through the Zero Childhood Cancer Program and leads the early phase clinical trials program at the Kids Cancer Centre.
David’s translational work has led to Australian children being the first in the world to receive new therapies for cancers like DIPG. ‘A few years ago, we didn’t really have any treatment options for children with DIPG, so we’ve been able to change the way we manage these high-risk cancers,’ he says. ‘I hope in the next 10 years there’s a transformational change, where this kind of targeted approach becomes the standard way children with cancer are treated.’