Grants - Pennsylvania - Designated Grants - 2022

Sameer Agnihotri, PhD

Funded in partnership with WWE in honor of Connor’s Cure

Brain tumors are the largest cause of cancer-related death in children. A subgroup of brain tumors known as DMG are the deadliest type, with most children dying within two years of their diagnosis. The location of these tumors makes surgery difficult and there is a need for effective therapies. One hallmark of DMGs is de-regulated (meaning too much or too little) epigenetics. DNA is a language in each of us that translates a set of instructions, determining features like our eye and hair color. Epigenetics provides the structure that allows cells to decode the DNA instructions for proper function. Patients with DMG have changes that result in faulty instructions that make cancer cells grow faster or migrate to other parts of the brain and body. A second emerging hallmark of DMGs is distorted metabolism, which is the chemical reactions in the body’s cells that change food into energy. We have made the discovery that brain tumor epigenetics is highly dependent and linked on certain nutrients. These nutrient sources help brain tumor cells to hijack epigenetic reactions to promote growth. By reducing the fuel that the cancer cells rely on, we aim to kill brain tumor cells while leaving normal cells unharmed. Why is this important? Pediatric brain tumor research has not generated sufficient advances and this proposal aims to help address that.