Dr. Han Shen, Westmead Institute for Medical Research, Australia
Funded Project: Targeting hypoxia and mitochondrial metabolism with repurposing drugs as an approach of radiosensitization for diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas
Funded Amount: $100,000
Dr. Shen provides an update on his recent project with the DIPG Collaborative and The Cure Starts Now and explains how it is providing clues to new treatment options for diffuse instrinsic pontine glioma.
"DIPG is the most malignant childhood primary brain tumor arising from the brain stem. Radiotherapy is the only standard treatment, but almost all the DIPG comes back with radial resistance, which means radiotherapy will no longer be able to kill this tumor's cells. To tackle this urgent clinical problem, we're trying to overcome radio resistance of the DIPG tumors, such that radiotherapy can eliminate as many tumor cells as possible. Radiation needs oxygen to kill tumor cells more effectively. And the DIPG tumors are recently reported to be hypoxic, a condition with reduced oxygen level. This biological feature may significantly contribute to radio resistance of DIPG cells.
We, therefore, repurposed antidiabetic drugs to reduce the oxygen consumption rate of the tumor cells so that the hypoxic condition can be improved by sparing more oxygen. The antidiabetic drugs are well tolerated in children, and have long been used in clinic without significant side effects. We have seen very promising effects from this class of drug when they are combined with radiotherapy to kill DIPG tumors.
In the next step, we will be evaluating this combination therapy in our animal model. We're also working on some predictive biomarkers to identify patients who will most likely benefit from this combination treatment. And this way, we will only give the right treatment to the right patient, so patients don't end up receiving treatments with no therapeutic benefit."