Cataloguing brain cancer in children – Hudson Institute celebrates funding

By Rob Clancy, staff writer

An ambitious project to identify and characterise the rarest and deadliest forms of brain cancer in children has received a welcome funding boost.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation, Associate Professor Ron Firestein and his team at Hudson Institute will spend the next two years establishing a unique catalogue of low-survival brain cancer in children.

Adding to their impact, they then intend to share this resource with researchers worldwide, to accelerate the search for cures and treatments.

The Robert Connor Dawes Foundation was created in 2013 in the memory of Robert ‘Connor’ Dawes, who died aged 18, after battling brain cancer for 16 months. It raises funds in Australia and the USA, reflecting Connor’s dual nationalities.

The foundation is battling paediatric brain tumours and supporting brain matters in the areas of research, care and development – to fund the science to end brain cancer and support patients in the meantime.

A/Prof Firestein’s research aims to find new therapeutic targets: “There is a clear need to go beyond genomic sequencing to identify new targeted therapies for paediatric cancers of poorest survival.”

“Childhood brain cancers comprise a diverse disease set that requires detailed molecular phenotyping and genomic sequencing to comprehensively catalogue,” A/Prof Firestein said.

“So there is an urgent need to progress the characterisation of these low-survival tumours through molecular phenotyping of patient models that recapitulate the disease.

“This is an exciting opportunity to extend our work with Dr Adam Resnick and the Children’s Brain Tumor Network (CBTN) team, to generate patient avatar models and fully characterise rare, but lethal, forms of childhood brain tumours.”

Thanks to a grant of $235,494 over two years from the RCD Foundation, that work is now under way.

Associate Professor Ron Firestein from the Cancer Genetics and Functional Genomics Research Group at Hudson Institute

Mapping Functional Genomic Dependencies for Rare Brain Cancer in Children

Associate Professor Ron Firestein

Robert Connor Dawes Foundation 2022–2024

Amount: $235,494

Co-investigators: The Children’s Brain Tumor Network (CBTN)

Brain tumours are the most common and deadliest malignancy in children. Current precision medicine programs focus on genomic sequencing to identify discrete mutations that may predict patients’ responses to targeted therapies. Unfortunately, fewer than 20 per cent of cancer patients harbour actionable mutations and of those who do, only 50 per cent respond to therapy. This underscores a clear need to go beyond genomic sequencing to identify new targeted therapies for paediatric cancers of poorest survival.

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