Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, is a highly aggressive, malignant brain tumor found in school-aged children that kills 99 percent of patients. The cancer is so challenging to study that there has been little to no improvement in the understanding of the disease in the past 30 years. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital neurologist Michelle Monje MD, PhD, is trying to change that by studying portions of tumors donated by families of the children whose lives have been claimed by DIPG.
In a story in today’s San Jose Mercury News, reporter Sandy Kleffman looks at a family who donated their daughter’s cancerous tissue in hopes that it will help researchers develop drugs and therapies. Dave Wetzel, the father of 8-year-old McKenna, who passed away from DIPG in 2011, tells Kleffman that it was Monje’s dedication to the understanding of the disease that led them to donating the tissue to Stanford. “You can tell she really doesn’t care who gets credit for curing cancer,” he said. You can tell this is her life’s passion.”
Monje and her team of scientists have been able to create stem cell lines from the donations and they’ve shared those lines with researchers at other institutions. “I want to know what we can bring to clinical trial as quickly as possible,” she said.