Next generation of researchers target better treatments for childhood cancer

Monday, 14 September 2020

The Isabella and Marcus Foundation passionately and tirelessly raises funds to support research into one of the most aggressive childhood cancers. Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) is a devastating paediatric brain tumour that kills more children than any other disease. Only 10% of children with DIPG survive for 2 years following their diagnosis, and less that 1% survive for 5 years. For promising young University of Newcastle researcher Evie Jackson the hope to change that is what drives her forward every day.

Next Generation of Researchers Target Better Treatments for Childhood Cancer
PhD student, Evie Jackson. PhD top-up scholarships funded by the Isabella and Marcus Foundation are named in memory of children who have died from DIPG. Evie Jackson has been named the Josie Dun Scholar.

Through a PhD top-up scholarship, the Isabella and Marcus Foundation will support Evie’s research into DIPG, under the supervision of Dr Matt Dun, biomedical scientist and leader of the Cancer Signalling Research Group (CSRG) at the University. Funding for childhood brain cancer has historically been low, and PhD top-up scholarships are a powerful way to help the University and the region attract and retain the brightest and best young researchers. Through their kind gift, the Isabella and Marcus Foundation is championing the next generation of talented brain cancer researchers.


Evie’s work to date has focused on understanding how a drug being tested in clinical trials overseas actually works to kill the DIPG cancer cells. For her PhD, supported by the Hunter Cancer Research Alliance, she will be working with donated DIPG samples from around the world to understand the biology of different tumours. The labs she works in at Callaghan campus may seem unassuming at first although, once you understand what takes place there, the simple fridge full of these samples and cells takes on new meaning. The weight of this research is not lost on Evie; she admits there isn’t much time when she isn’t thinking through ideas or considering something they could be doing better or differently. “This is an absolute passion for us,” says Evie, “It’s a constant process of thinking and testing between Matt and the team” says Evie. Her determination is evident, and the hope to find better outcomes for families is around every bend of conversation.

As cancer researchers we may not always be able to find a cure, but we can find ways to give children and parents extra options. When your child has DIPG, a few more months together means a lot."

Evie Jackson
Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Honours) 2019

When my daughter Isabella was diagnosed in 2008, very little was known about DIPG. Twelve years later we have a better understanding, but we still desperately need more people on the ground studying how DIPG responds to drug treatments to give children with DIPG more options.
We are so glad to be supporting such a promising young researcher like Evie."

Dr Robert De Rose
Co-founder, Isabella and Marcus Foundation


DIPG is highly aggressive and difficult to treat. It primarily affects children aged between 5-7 years or younger. Radiation therapy may temporarily reduce symptoms, but progression is often rapid and the average survival time is 9-12 months post-diagnosis.

We are so grateful to the Isabella and Marcus Foundation and for the wonderful and widespread community support we have received for DIPG research at the University of Newcastle. Though we’re not there yet, our shared goal is a cure - we all want to see children have the chance to reach their full potential."

Rebecca Hazell
Director of Advancement

$1.00 → $3.90

For every dollar invested in Australian medical research, almost four dollars of benefits are delivered to the Australian population. In 2018, medical research from 1990 to 2004 was calculated to have delivered net gains of $78 billion to the community from a net cost of $20 billion. $52 billion had been delivered in the form of health gains, and $26 billion in wider economic gains, including from the commercialisation of medical research and the creation of high-value, knowledge-based jobs.
KPMG, Economic Impact of Medical Research in Australia, October 2018


The Isabella and Marcus Foundation are one of many organisations passionately supporting DIPG research at the University. RUN DIPG is another charity formed by family and friends of Dr Matt Dun, whose daughter, Josephine, was diagnosed with DIPG in 2018.
Stunned and heartbroken by the terminal diagnosis, the community rallied around the Dun family, raising funds and awareness for DIPG research at the University by throwing their support into running, walking, hiking, paddling, cycling and dancing events. Thanks to their amazing efforts, 2020 sees the commencement of the RUN DIPG International PhD Scholarship. Committing approximately $108,000, this donation will support the project titled ‘Neoantigen immunopeptidomics for the development of immunotherapies for the treatment of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG)’.
Josephine Dun passed away in December 2019, however the commitment of RUN DIPG, the Isabella and Marcus Foundation, Dr Dun’s team and the CSRG to improve outcomes for those facing DIPG continues.

Read more in the Gift Magazine

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.