Despite the unusual year that was 2020, we are immensely proud to announce that part of the year’s fundraising efforts will support the ongoing DIPG research of Associate Professor Matt Dun, at The University of Newcastle in 2021.
More money, more research…
Granting more than $176,000, RUNDIPG will support Associate Professor Dun’s efforts to improve the field’s understanding of the underlying mechanisms controlling the growth of DIPG tumours and finding/developing therapies to combat the devastating course of the disease.
Leading the Cancer Signalling Research Group (CSRG) at The University of Newcastle (UON), Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), Matt Dun will be able to continue an ambitious project (first funded by Tour de Cure) seeking to compare the details of a tumour’s genetic code (genome) versus the tumour’s proteins (proteome) and their activity (phosphoproteome), that are encoded for by the genome.
Proteins are the master controllers of all biological processes, such as cell growth, division, response to therapies, recognition by the immune system, and control of a cell’s life or death. In healthy cells, these processes are highly regulated. In cancer cells, however, these control mechanisms become unregulated, and so it is these wayward, protein-guided pathways that often become the target of anti-cancer drug therapies.
Matt knows his proteins…
Associate Professor Matt Dun (father to our beloved Josephine Dun, lost to DIPG in December 2019) is a biomedical scientist and cancer researcher. Matt specialises in ‘high-resolution, quantitative mass spectrometry, a scientific technique that reveals the spectrum of proteins (including abundance) in a tumour sample. Matt’s team also study the relative activity of these proteins (whether they be activated, deactivated, amplified, suppressed or unchanged) to understand how the DIPG tumour grows and survives in the hope that the research can exploit this information to develop targeted anti-DIPG therapies.
Genome vs Proteome
This project’s crux is that knowledge of either the genome or the proteome alone does not ensure a complete understanding of a tumour’s likelihood to respond to or resist therapy. Although the genome underlies which proteins may be coded for, it does not provide insight into their activity, hence why anti-cancer therapies based on genomic targets generally do not provide a robust response – certainly the case in DIPG.
Genome sequencing is a process whereby the order of DNA units is studied and reported. Given the volume and complexity of the information (the human genome has more than three billion DNA units!), the task is costly and time-consuming.
Thanks to our donors, RUNDIPG funding will support Associate Professor Dun’s collaboration with The Garvan Institute of Medical Research as they reveal the genome of more than 60 DIPG tumours and tumour-derived samples. With ~20 cases diagnosed annually in Australia (150 in the UK, 300-450 in the US), the 60 samples represent a comprehensive study made possible thanks to the generous donation of tumour material from patients and collaborators worldwide.
The genomic sequencing funded by RUNDIPG, combined with the specialised study of active proteins across >60 DIPG samples, will see Matt and the team (including a new staff member supported by our funding) create a ‘Molecular Signalling Classification System” (MSCS), a cellular map revealing the interplay between the underlying genetic code and the proteins that influence DIPG tumour growth and survival. This will be critical information for both clinicians and researchers alike, as protein profiles will be linked to a patient’s individual genomic landscape at diagnosis to correlate mutations with protein signalling pathway activity- data that will predict which therapies are most likely to be effective for each patient. As we know, there are no regulatory-approved anti-DIPG treatments currently available and changing this is a goal high on our priority list!
Collaborative, blue sky projects such as these are needed to make meaningful change for patients and families impacted by DIPG. Our most sincere thanks go out to all our supporters; this exciting project and the impact that comes of it will be thanks to you!