As we have previously learnt, Associate Professor Matt Dun and the Cancer Signalling Research Group (CSRG) are particularly interested in the interplay between the genetics of a patient’s tumour and the proteins that control the wayward growth and survival processes that are the hallmark of DIPG/DMG malignancy.
The upcoming project involves moving the findings of current RUN DIPG-funded research to a more patient-specific study. Nicknamed “PHOTON” (PHarmaco-phOspho-proTeO-geNomics), Matt and the team will utilise donated tumour tissue to reveal the tumour’s genetics (the genome), the proteins (the proteome) and the protein activity (the phosphoproteome), which combine to control tumour growth.
Concurrently, the lab will develop a set of patient-specific tumour models to test therapies that act on targets identified within the “-omic” data sets. Initially, a ‘cell line’ will be cultured from a small portion of the tumour sample by supplying nutrient media and incubating at conditions optimised for cancer cell growth. The therapies showing the greatest effect at reducing or stalling the growth of the tumour cell line will be progressed to a patient-matched animal study to further assess safety, tolerability and effectiveness.
Importantly, the team will simultaneously study the effect of therapies identified by both genomic and phospho-/proteomic approaches throughout the project. Presently, children and families diagnosed with DIPG/DMG are offered palliative radiation therapy in an attempt to shrink the tumour and reduce symptoms. Subsequently, experimental therapies may be offered or sought via enrolment in clinical trials or direct from pharmaceutical companies if compassionate access schemes are available. Historically, these investigational therapies act on genomic characteristics that have been identified within the patient’s tumour. As we know all too well, this approach is yet to find a treatment that extends DIPG/DMG patient survival.
Over the three years, A/Prof Dun will collate the findings for each tumour analysed to see whether a pattern can be identified relating the underlying genetic or protein-specific characteristics of a tumour to the effective therapies identified and tested via the PHOTON platform. It is hoped that this approach can be developed to facilitate immediate treatment selection for patients at diagnosis, enabling improved survival without having to face the current “gamble” of experimental therapies on offer.
As well as the commitment of The Kids Cancer Project and the institutional support provided by The University of Newcastle, we must thank you, the RUN DIPG runner, mover, supporter, follower or donor – without our dedicated community; our charity could not be in a position to be able to bring this promising work to fruition. Thank you, thank you, thank you!