Highly endowed grants as part of the FIGHT KIDS CANCER program

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Bild: MedUni Wien/feelimage
Bild: MedUni Wien/feelimage

Johannes Gojo, Professor of Pediatric Neuro-Oncology at MedUni Vienna, and his team at the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine have been awarded highly remunerated grants under the FIGHT KIDS CANCER (FKC) program for their research work.

In total, the research team from the Neuro-Oncology Unit at the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and its cooperation partners at MedUni Vienna have received funding for three projects - one in a leading role and two as cooperation partners.

Project: Scanning the liquids Of paediatric brain tumour patients to Personalize treatment - "SOUP" (Lead MedUni Vienna)
In 2022 more than 1800 children aged 0-19 have been diagnosed with a brain or spinal cord (summarized as central nervous system) tumour within the EU-27. CNS tumours are still the leading cancer-related cause of death in the paediatric population. Prognosis very much depends on the type of cancer and long -term survival ranges between 0 and almost 100%. There are many burdens patients and their families face during the disease: surgery with it’s associated risks, waiting time for the diagnosis and the associated anxiety: "Will I/my child need additional therapy?", if post-operative therapy is needed, "Does the tumour respond?", at the end of treatment, "Is it completely gone", "will it come back?" and in the case of recurrence "is there any additional treatment option?".

The proposed project aims to set the groundwork for tackling these questions by advancing methods to analyse liquid biopsies (LB). LBs describe the usage of blood, urine or, especially in the case of brain tumours, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the water-like fluid that surrounds the brain. The team at MedUni Vienna and others have shown recently that tumours shed their unique genetic pattern into the CSF. We plan to use this shed DNA, called cell -free tumour DNA and analyse it by various methods. The goals are 1) to allow for diagnosis at the time of or even before surgery 2), to allow the surgeon to optimally plan the tumour resection minimizing neurological deficits and reduce the waiting time for diagnosis and treatment initiation, 3) to allow for response monitoring throughout treatment deciphering changes in the tumour not being visible on radiological images, 4) to evaluate if the produced data allows for risk stratification, so that each patients receive as much therapy as they need, but not to much, thereby minimizing long-term side effects; 5) to use LBs as an additional tool for early detection of tumor recurrence and ultimately for analysis of tumor development during treatment, which could enable an informed choice of targeted therapy in the event of recurrence. Moreover, the project is designed to develop the resources that these methods will be widely applied for patients leading to improved therapies in the near future.

Funding: 2 million Euro
Partners: MedUni Vienna ((Johannes Gojo together with Christian Dorfer and Daniela Lötsch-Gojo (Department of Neurosurgery), Christine Haberler (Department of Neurochemistry and Neuropathology) and Walter Berger (Center for Cancer Research)), KiTZ Heidelberg, Karolinska Institute, Princess Maxima Center Utrecht, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, University of Aarhus, University of Nottingham, University Hospital Brno, Institut Curie Paris, University Hospital Strasbourg

Our knowledge of the biology of childhood cancer has changed completely in recent decades, with the widespread application of innovative technologies leading to enormous advances. Unfortunately, however, there has been a widespread failure to translate this improved knowledge into meaningful new treatments. There is a clear bottleneck in the translation of scientific knowledge into therapeutic options for young patients that urgently needs to be addressed. This is particularly true for brain tumors, where special factors such as the natural barrier that protects the brain from chemicals in the blood ("blood-brain barrier") make the implementation of treatment even more difficult. For many high-risk tumors, even the 5-year survival rate is regrettably close to 0%. Of those who survive, many have lifelong problems due to side effects of the tumor or toxicity of the treatment. The proposed project aims to address these problems in three ways. First, a review of promising treatment targets for all pediatric brain tumors will be created and continuously updated in collaboration with experts from the ITCC brain tumor working groups. Second, a robust pipeline will be established for the conduct and analysis of high-quality preclinical experiments that will exploit selected therapeutic targets, investigate the impact of new treatments on different tumor models, and provide the preclinical data essential to progress towards clinical trials. The infrastructure and model repertoire of the preclinical platform ITCC-P4, in which MedUni Vienna is also involved, will be used. This comprehensive approach should make a significant contribution to bridging the gap that currently exists between the results of basic research and clinical implementation. The platform offers a way to systematically identify and test promising new treatment methods and ensure that they are successfully included in a clinical trial in order to provide young patients with accelerated access to innovations.

Funding: 2 million Euro
Partner: ICR London, Princess Maxima Center Utrecht, Universität Newcastle MedUni Wien

Project: Effectiveness of an audiovisual telerehabilitation program to restore the visual field in children with hemianopia due to a brain tumor (Lead Strasbourg)
This project represents a paradigm shift in the way health is viewed holistically and personalized patient management is increasingly applied. Within a telerehabilitation program, patients with hemianopia (loss of visual field) will be offered a support program using virtual reality and evaluated neurophysiologically.

Funding: 1,2 million Euro
Lead Strasbourg, Vienna involved as a clinical center

FIGHT KIDS CANCER (FKC) Program

European Science Foundation awards research grants on behalf of the FIGHT KIDS CANCER (FKC) Program. FKC is a research programme established by organizations active in the field of pediatric cancer in Europe. These five funding organizations represent parents and patients: Imagine for Margo (France), KickCancer (Belgium), Fondatioun Kriibskrank Kanner (Luxembourg), CRIS Cancer (Spain and UK) and Kika (Netherlands).

Information: Europe-wide preclinical test platform for rare tumors in children established and secured for the future