Seeking a cure for DIPG

Brain cancer kills more children than any other cancer. Unfortunately, it is not as rare as we would wish it to be… in fact, it is the second most common cancer in children after leukaemia, with well over 100 children and adolescents diagnosed each year in Australia.

Most aggressive of all is a brain cancer called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG. This devastating disease most often occurs in children under 12 and with no effective treatments available, it is usually fatal within a year of diagnosis.

Our Brain Tumours group is dedicated to researching and finding new treatments for DIPG

An Australian first

Our Institute is the Australian hub of the international DIPG registry, a global network of researchers and clinicians working on DIPG.

Our Brain Tumours group is the only laboratory program in the country dedicated to researching and finding new treatments for DIPG. Led by Associate Professor David Ziegler – a paediatric oncologist at Kids Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital, as well as a cancer researcher at Children’s Cancer Institute – the team established Australia’s first-ever tumour bank for DIPG in 2011.

Children's Cancer Institute established Australia's first DIPG tumour bank

Establishing the tumour bank has been a huge step forward, because it has allowed us to grow this cancer in our laboratories and screen it against hundreds of drugs to find those that are effective at killing it."

- Associate Professor David Ziegler

Our brain tumours team has been testing hundreds of drugs against DIPG samples

Making progress

Our team has succeeded in identifying a number of drugs that appear to be highly effective at killing DIPG cells and has tested these in laboratory models of disease. Based on this research, several clinical trials have launched or are in development for children with DIPG.

Our results so far strongly suggest that a coordinated combination of therapies, rather than any one drug on its own, is most likely to improve survival rates in children with DIPG. This has led our team to pursue what is known as a ‘total therapy’ approach to treating DIPG – a similar approach to that used to treat children with leukaemia.

A major breakthrough

Results from our most recent research, just published in the international journal Nature Communications, are particularly exciting. We have found that a therapy known as ‘polyamine depletion therapy’, originally developed to treat neuroblastoma, is highly effective against DIPG.

An international clinical trial in children with DIPG is now being planned, which will be jointly led by Children’s Cancer Institute and the Kid’s Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital.

Associate Professor David Ziegler leads out DIPG research

In time, I believe we can do for brain cancer what has already been done for leukaemia. Once, the survival rate for leukaemia was zero. Today, it’s over 85%."

- Associate Professor David Ziegler

Hope for the future

While we don’t yet have a cure for DIPG, we are making major inroads. For the first time ever, there is hope on the horizon for the families of children diagnosed with this disease.

Amity & Liliana's story

Amity and Liliana were diagnosed with the deadliest childhood cancer. For them they were no options. But their contribution is changing the future for children with DIPG. Watch their story.

Donate today and support lifesaving research like this!