Exciting News from B+ Foundation-Supported Research

DIPG is a horrible type of brain cancer with virtually no chance of survival.  It has not been as extensively studied as some other types of childhood cancer, but the landscape is changing.  In honor of our great student partners of UDance (University of Delaware), we awarded a grant to Dr. Oren Becher at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.  Please take a look below at a very encouraging update on Dr. Becher’s work.  We are proud to play a small part in this exciting research.

Promising Strategy to Fight the Most Deadly Brain Tumor in Children

Treatment slows tumor growth and increases survival in animal model of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG)

A study published in Nature Communications found that an inhibitor of an enzyme called ACVR1 slows tumor growth and increases survival in an animal model of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) – the most deadly brain tumor in children. Currently, there are no approved drugs for treating DIPG. This research opens the door to a promising new treatment strategy.

“Our results are encouraging and suggest that it might be reasonable to test an inhibitor of this enzyme in a clinical trial,” says senior author Oren Becher, MD, from Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Prior to that, we need to evaluate different ACVR1 inhibitors in animal models to make sure we bring the most safe and effective agent to trials with children.”

In 2014, Dr. Becher’s lab co-discovered that ACVR1 mutations are found in approximately 25 percent of DIPGs, leading the enzyme to be overactive. In the current study, Dr. Becher and colleagues demonstrate for the first time in an animal model that this enzyme mutation cooperates with a histone mutation (H3.1 K27M) found in 20 percent of DIPGs. Together, these mutations are important in initiating tumor development.

Histone is a protein that acts like a spool for DNA, helping to package the six-foot long DNA strand into the tiny nucleus of every cell. Histones also help regulate which genes turn on and off, a process that goes awry when there is a histone mutation.  “Our future work will examine why and how the ACVR1 and histone mutations work together to trigger DIPG development,” says Dr. Becher, who also is the Rory David Deutsch Malignant Brain Tumor Research Scholar. “Greater insight into this process will bring us closer to identifying a successful therapy for children with DIPG.”


Children’s Oncology Group (COG) Meeting

Staying on the research theme, I had the honor of being invited to attend last week’s COG Meeting in Denver.  The most exciting part of the conference was not the “bomb cyclone” that hit us in Denver, but some amazing progress being made in many different types of childhood cancers.  The COG is the world’s leading body of pediatric oncologists and it was truly a privilege to be invited once again to attend.


Closer to Home

While all of our schools are special to me, in the last 2 weeks, I had the opportunity to spend time at 4 which hold unique places in my life.

Last weekend, Ali & Andrew’s grade school alma mater, St. Mary Magdalen (SMM), hosted their annual 3v3 basketball tournament with The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation once again being the beneficiary.  The event is run by the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) chapter at  SMM and it began years ago when Andrew was in NJHS himself.  This makes it even more special and it’s so nice that their school has not forgotten Andrew.  Thank you, also, for raising an amazing $11,500 and for having such a great time along the way.

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve given about 25 talks at my college alma mater, the University of Delaware, in the run-up to “UDance” on March 24th.  If you would like to support this event with a donation to Ali’s page, please click on this link.  The event is open to the public (small admission fee required), so if you’re in the Delaware area, please come out and join us next Sun from 9am-9pm.  The B+ Hero Hour will be held from 3:00pm-4:00pm.

I had the privilege of traveling to Rose Hill in The Bronx, NY for my grad school alma mater, Fordham University’s “FDM” (Fordham Dance Marathon).  The Rams did a GREAT job and exceeded their goal by raising over $120,000!

And last, but certainly not least, I was very touched to be invited to speak to a class at Salesianum School, Andrew’s high school.  It was the last school Andrew attended and he loved it so much.  In spite of the fact that I’ve given over 1,000 talks, this was my first visit to a class at Sallies.  Thank you, Fr. Beretta, for inviting me to connect the current Salesians with their brother, Andrew.  The topic of the class was “Death & Dying” which is, obviously, a tough topic to address.  But, I was so honored to be invited and so impressed by the students and their questions.  They even sent a packet of thank-you cards to me following my talk.  It means so much to me, Chris, and Ali that Andrew is forever connected to his school and his brothers…of all ages. (I was so excited years ago when Joel Lang sent us this picture he had taken of Andrew through the door of a classroom.)

MAKE it a great week!


Ali & Andrew’s Dad