A heads-up for those in the Bay Area: This Sunday, Sept. 30, at 12:30 p.m. local time, San Francisco TV station KICU TV 36 will be airing "Dylan's Gift," a documentary about a particularly heart-wrenching slice of pediatric cancer research. The 25-minute film explains the work of Stanford physician-scientist Michelle Monje, MD, PhD, who studies diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a childhood brain tumor with a five-year survival rate of just one percent. Research on the tumor has been stalled for decades – it's inoperable, and a variety of chemotherapy drugs have had no effect – but Monje hopes to change that.
As I have written before, Dylan's parents, John and Danah, asked Monje if they could donate their son's tumor for research after his death. Their generous donation allowed Monje and her colleagues to create the first-ever laboratory culture of DIPG cells and opened a new frontier in DIPG research. Now, with the ability to examine these cancer cells directly in the lab, Monje and other scientists across the country have a valuable tool for learning what makes the cells cancerous and for testing potential therapies against them.
"Dylan's Gift" is part of a larger TV series about medical research called "Bench to Bedside." (The image above, showing Danah and son Jayden visiting Dylan's grave, is a screen capture from the series trailer.) The documentary, which features extensive interviews with the Jewett family, with Monje, and with the family of a little boy who now has DIPG, was recently recognized with a Telly award.
I got a sneak peek at "Dylan's Gift" a few months ago. It's very moving. Do watch it if you get the chance. If you're outside the Bay Area, stay tuned; national air times are coming in 2013, and we'll post another alert when they are finalized.
Previously: Finding hope for rare pediatric brain tumor, Big advance against a vicious pediatric brain tumor, Video profiles work of pediatric brain-tumor researcher and New Stanford trial targets rare brain tumor