Just $5m to find the cure
Malaria drug may beat cancer
MONEY is the only thing is standing between Australian scientists and a cure for the death sentence that is brain cancer in children.
“An annual budget of $5 million would revolutionise the approach to this cancer,” oncologist Associate Professor David Ziegler said.
In his laboratory at the Sydney’s Children’s Cancer Institute, Prof Ziegler and his team have been looking for a needle in a haystack, a way to kill Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a brain stem tumour considered 100 per cent fatal.
They may have found it in a malaria drug.
All children diagnosed with the tumour, which is inoperable given its position in the brain stem, are given six to nine months to live.
With 18 donated brain tumours, the team has grown DIPG tumours in the lab and then exposed them to thousands of known drugs. Nearly all the known chemotherapy drugs have failed on DIPG but, in a breakthrough moment, the anti-malarial drug worked.
“We’ve found a very small number of drugs that are very effective (at killing the tumours) and the anti-malarial drugs seems to be very effective. In the test tube and in mouse models it kills this cancer,” Prof Ziegler said.
It is the most promising breakthrough to date for a cancer that has been subjected to 250 drugs trials, all of which have failed.
The scientists began their research four years ago with the help of seed funding from the grieving parents of Benny Wills, who died aged just four in September 2009.
Benny Wills Brain Tumour Research Program and The Cure Starts Now charity both donated to the initial research before the National Health and Medical Research Council invested $1.6 million.
“We are working as fast as we can and we are hoping for our first trial to open next year,” he said.
Benny Wills’ mother Imogen said the breakthrough was amazing.
“It came as a complete shock to me when Benny was diagnosed that there was literally nothing anyone could do. If this had been done 30 years ago, we could have beaten it and if we don’t get off our arses, it won’t change in another 30 years,” she said.
“It’s actually these patients and their families that drive us to get out of bed every morning and try to find new treatments and to start making a difference in outcome for these kids,” Prof Ziegler said.
Imogen and Dave Wills lost son Benny to brain cancer and are funding drug trials.