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Finding new methods to treat Diffuse Midline Glioma

Fast facts

  • Official title: Understanding the role of PRC2 deregulation in diffuse midline glioma (DMG; aka DIPG): novel strategies to inhibit EZH2 function
  • Lead researcher: Dr Adrian Bracken
  • Where: Trinity College Dublin
  • When: March 2018 - February 2021
  • Cost: £109,263 over three years. This project is co-funded with Worldwide Cancer Research
  • Research type: Paediatric, DMG/DIPG (High Grade), Academic

Dr Adrian Bracken and his research team at Trinity College Dublin aim to develop new methods to treat diffuse midline glioma, formerly known as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG)*.

What is it?

Previous research has found that the regulation of chromatin, which is DNA wrapped around special proteins, is disrupted in various cancers. They’ve also found that blocking the activity of a protein associated with chromatin, called EZH2, with a drug has successfully increased survival. But researchers have discovered mutations or changes within EZH2 that make the drug ineffective.

The aim of the research team, led by Dr Bracken, is to develop alternative strategies to block EZH2 activity.

To accomplish this, the researchers will evaluate the efficacy of blocking other proteins associated with chromatin, as well as screening and evaluating various other drugs to block EZH2 activity.

Why is it needed?

Diffuse midline gliomas, formerly known as DIPG, are highly aggressive brain tumours found at the base of the brain. DIPG is the second most common type of primary, high grade brain tumour occurring in children. DIPG is difficult to treat as the tumour grows in a dispersed manner and invades healthy tissue of the brainstem, making surgical removal of the tumour impossible. Radiation therapy is the standard treatment, but it’s not a cure and only serves to stabilise the symptoms temporarily. The five-year survival rate of DIPG is less than 1%, making further research into this tumour vital.

Who will it help?

This research project will help children with diffuse midline gliomas. It will lay the foundation for subsequent clinical trials to effectively treat this highly aggressive cancer.

Milestones

Since the start of the project, the research team has been working towards evaluating the efficacy of targeting other proteins associated with chromatin as a method to treat diffuse midline gliomas. They are also working on a list of 38 potential drugs that could block EZH2 activity.

*Following the 2016 revision to WHO classification, this tumour is now known clinically as “Diffuse Midline Glioma- Pontine Location H3 K27M."

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