Funding partnership to uncover new brain cancer treatments for kids
The Robert Connor Dawes Foundation has joined forces with the Ethan Davies Fellowship to co-fund a Telethon Kids Institute initiative aimed at uncovering new treatments for aggressive childhood brain tumours.
The outcomes for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) and ependymoma cancer patients have barely changed in 30 years. The ependymoma cure rate is less than 50% and DIPG is nearly always fatal. New treatments for these tumours are desperately needed.
Now, a Telethon Kids Institute-initiated project provides a genuine opportunity to identify novel therapeutic approaches to improve these outcomes.
The Ion Channel Drugs for the Treatment of Aggressive Childhood Brain Tumours project, led by Professor Terry Johns, grew out of the Institute’s innovative Blue Sky program – a scheme aimed at encouraging high-risk high-reward research.
The project will test a radical new approach to treating ependymomas and DIPG by using ion channel drugs to reduce the tumour’s adaptability and increase the efficacy of targeted therapies.
The RCD Foundation and Ethan Davies Fellowship have each committed $50,000 to the project.
Shannon Davies, Ethan's dad and co-founder of Ethan Davies Fellowship, says they are excited to be partnering with the RCD Foundation on such a critical project.
“We’re thrilled to partner with the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation on this innovative childhood brain cancer research project,” Shannon says.
“From our perspective, the collaborative links that the project will establish between the Foundation, the Telethon Kids Institute and The Florey Institute are exactly what Ethan’s fellowship was established to foster.
“The project will also see Dr Emily Fletcher from the University of Cambridge become our first internationally-sourced Ethan Davies Fellow, and we’re honoured to have someone of her calibre on board.”
Dr Fletcher is a world leader in ion channel biology which plays a critical role in many medical conditions including epilepsy, neurological disease and pain more generally. With experience in the UK and America, she has now moved to Australia to apply her expertise in this area to develop new brain cancer treatments.
The project aims to:
Identify ion channels that have a role in the growth of DIPG and ependymoma patient-derived cell lines
Determine if ion channels regulate signalling plasticity in DIPG and ependymoma cell lines
Test the efficacy of ion channel drugs combined with targeted therapies to treat ependymoma and DIPG
If the combination treatment is effective, generate composition of matter patents
According to Professor Johns, even if the project falls short of its ultimate aim the knowledge gained by the research will provide critical new insights into the biology of paediatric brain cancers.
“There is such an urgent need for more effective and less harmful treatments for these kinds of cancers, and anything we can do to better understand them brings us closer to that goal,” Professor Johns says.
“It’s progress we simply couldn’t hope to make without the kind of generous support being provided by both the RCD Foundation and the Ethan Davies Fellowship.
“We’re also excited to welcome Dr Emily Fletcher to the project – she brings a wealth of knowledge and the international experience required to make an impact in this area.”