Making childhood brain cancer walk the plank

Dr Dannielle Upton and her crewmates on Pirate Day 2022 dressed up in pirate attire.
Pirate Day 2022 is supporting research into one of the deadliest brain cancers, DIPG.

Dr Dannielle Upton, from the Children’s Cancer Institute, is investigating potential therapies for one of the deadliest childhood cancers, DIPG.

For children with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), and their loved ones, the diagnosis is devastating. The disease typically affects children aged five to seven who are otherwise perfectly healthy. It is considered incurable.

One of the problems facing researchers in the past was a lack of tumour samples. This was solved partly thanks to the work of Associate Professor David Ziegler, Group Leader of the Brain Tumours Group, and his research team at Children’s Cancer Institute

Behind the Science: Research brings hope.

DIPG is the most aggressive of all childhood cancers. There are no effective treatments. Current therapeutic strategies are palliative only.

- Dr Dannielle Upton

The average survival for children with DIPG is just nine months post diagnosis. Innovative treatment approaches are urgently needed to counter the ongoing poor prognosis of DIPG.

Ziegler, Upton, and their colleagues painstakingly tested thousands of clinically available drugs against DIPG samples. Only a few had any effect and of those, some were unable to cross the blood brain barrier, making them useless against DIPG. One drug that ticked all the boxes was Auranofin, a rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

“I was sceptical, at first. We started in a culture dish, looking at whether it could inhibit growth of the DIPG cells. It did. We looked at it against healthy brain cells to check that it wouldn’t affect the healthy tissue around the tumour, and it didn’t. I’m no longer cynical – I’m a believer!”

The Kids’ Cancer Project is funding the next steps in this powerful study.

Dr.Upton in her lab, conducting research.

We want to work out exactly how Auranofin is working against DIPG. Once we know that, we’ll be able to work out the best pathway, or the best combination of drugs.

- Dr Dannielle Upton

A pirate crew in the lab

This May, adventurers across Australia are invited to put on their best pirate dress for The Kids’ Cancer Project’s Pirate Day 2022. Money raised will be directed specifically to Dr Upton’s work into DIPG.

Dr. Upton and her crewmates dressed as pirates and walking in a row.

Pirate Day is a national day of swashbuckling for the serious cause: raising vital funds for research into kinder, more effective treatments for kids’ brain cancer.

Brain cancer is a devastating disease, even more so when it affects children. Anything that raises awareness will help research efforts with the hope of finding a cure.

This year, the annual fundraiser will be held on Friday 13 May. But budding buccaneers are encouraged to dress up any day throughout Brain Cancer Awareness Month in May.

Dr Upton is excited for to set sail:

Me hearties here at the brain tumour research group at Children’s Cancer Institute will be wearing their best swashbuckling pirate gear in May to raise awareness for The Kid’s Cancer Project’s Pirate Day.

Pirate Day is a fantastic initiative that raises awareness and crucial funds for brain cancer research.

We really need to change the statistics from it being incurable, to not just prolonging life but curing this cancer.

- Dr Dannielle Upton

Register for Pirate Day