Breakthrough for Brain Cancer Research

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

University of Newcastle researchers have made a significant breakthrough in brain cancer research as they continue their campaign to save lives by finding an effective treatment for the most aggressive of brain stem tumours.

The McDonald Jones Charitable Foundation has provided two generous $100,000 philanthropic commitments to support University of Newcastle researcher and alumnus Dr Matt Dun (PhD (Biological Sciences), 2012; Bachelor of Biotechnology (Honours), 2008) and the Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) cancer research led by his team. The support has enabled Dr Dun and his colleagues to pursue a weak link that could be targeted by new drugs that are able to get to the site of brain stem cancer.

What is DIPG?

Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) is a highly aggressive and difficult to treat brain tumour found at the base of the brain in a critical area called the pons which controls many of the body’s most vital functions.
DIPG primarily affects children, with most diagnoses occuring between 5-7 years of age or younger. The delicate position of DIPG tumours make them impossible to remove surgically and they do not respond to any chemotherapy drug.

The drug breakthrough DIPG patients need

After investigating how DIPG cancer cells communicate, Dr Dun and his team went searching for a drug that may interrupt cancer growth in these tumours. Supported by this and other generous funding from community groups, organisations and individuals, they found a drug and began testing it on DIPG samples in the lab, with positive results.
The team has since tested 11 DIPG samples in the lab and they are all sensitive to the drug, marking a significant breakthrough in understanding DIPG. Dr Dun’s own daughter was diagnosed with DIPG in 2018, making his search for a cure heartbreakingly personal.

Though there is much more work to be done to find the cure the team are so hoping for, the generous philanthropic support from The McDonald Jones Charitable Foundation provided a vital boost to support this breakthrough research for DIPG, which has been underfunded for many years.

If you’re interested in supporting Dr Dun's research, or any other area of research, please call us to find out more on 02 4921 8612 or email

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