Connor Man Defeat DIPG Foundation raises money to fund DIPG research as a chapter of Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation.  In December 2017, Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation and The ChadTough Foundation awarded more than $1 million to fund six DIPG-specific research projects.

Three of the projects being funded are research grants and three are fellowships.

Research grants provide funding for hypothesis-driven research projects.  The proposed research must represent an innovative approach to a major challenge in DIPG research. The funded projects must have the potential to lead to groundbreaking discoveries in the field, and transform our understanding of the tumorigenesis process or our ability to treat or detect DIPG. Research grants provide funding of up to $250,000 over 2 years.

Fellowships are intended to attract and support promising scientists embarking on careers involving DIPG research.  By providing funding to outstanding postdoctoral fellows under the guidance of a mentor, the Fellowship Grant seeks to assist in the development of the next generation of leaders in the field of DIPG research.  Fellowships provide funding of up to $100,000 over 2 years.

David Ashley, Duke Unversity

“Recombinant Attenuated Poliovirus Immunization Vectors Targeting H3.3(K27M) in DIPG.”

In recent years, the Duke University team has developed an immunotherapy treatment that uses a modified form of the poliovirus to treat brain tumors.  This treatment has received significant attention, including two segments on 60 Minutes.

The Duke team recently began a clinical trial using the poliovirus vaccine in children with high-grade gliomas, but DIPG patients were excluded due to a risk of inflammation. In this study, Dr. Ashley is modifying the poliovirus vaccine so that it can be used to treat DIPG patients.

Catherine Flores, University of Florida

“Enhancing efficacy of adoptive immunotherapy against DIPG using hematopoietic cells.”

This immunotherapy project uses adoptive cell therapy, which involves removing cancer cells from the patient, creating a large number of T cells that can identify and attack the cancer cells, and then infusing those cells back into the body.

Dr. Flores is developing an adoptive cell therapy treatment for DIPG that uses both the DIPG cells obtained from a biopsy and also cells from the patient’s bone marrow.  She will also administer the blood stem cells with the T cells, which can enhance the T cells’ ability to infiltrate the tumor.

Michelle Monje, Stanford University

“The Tumor Microtube Network in DIPG: Targeting a Possible ‘Achilles Heel’ Required to Defeat DIPG.”

A recent study of adult brain tumors showed that the cancer cells connect to each other through thin extensions called “tumor microtubes,” and that these connections help the tumor cells survive and resist treatment.

Dr. Monje believes she has uncovered similar microtubes within DIPG tumors. She is investigating the microtubes to determine whether targeting them will make DIPG tumor cells more susceptible to treatment.

Jamie Anastas, Harvard University/Boston Children’s Hospital

“Targeting chromatin regulation to treat DIPG”

Dr. Anastas studies how the histone mutation commonly found in DIPG affects how the tumor cells function. After screening 1,300 chromatin regulators, she has identified multiple proteins that are necessary for DIPG cells to proliferate and survive, but are dispensable for normal cell growth. Her research is determining the roles of these proteins in DIPG development.

Dr. Anastas’s mentor for this project is Yang Shi.

Zach Reitman, Harvard University/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

“Prioritizing PPM1D mutations as a target for new DIPG therapies”

Dr. Reitman studies the role the PPM1D mutation plays in helping DIPG tumors grow. In this project, he is testing whether targeting the PPM1D gene slows DIPG cell growth to determine whether a PPM1D inhibitor should be developed as a potential treatment for DIPG.

Dr. Reitman’s mentors for this project are Rameen Beroukhim and Pratiti Bandopadhayay.

Chen Shen, Northwestern University

“Dissection of ATRX in Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma”

Dr. Shen is focusing on the ATRX protein and its role in driving DIPG tumor growth. Her hypothesis is that the loss of ATRX works with the histone mutation to promote DIPG growth. She is investigating whether the loss of ATRX impacts the DIPG tumor’s response to radiation.

Dr. Shen’s mentor for this project is Oren Becher.