Dr. Cynthia Hawkins

Dr. Cynthia Hawkins Provides a Research Update
Defeat DIPG ChadTough Special Grant Recipient

Dr. Cynthia Hawkins, a neuropathologist and scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, is a special grant recipient of The ChadTough Foundation. This type of grant is awarded to a lab working on projects involving DIPG and is to be used at the lab’s discretion for DIPG research. Through genetics work and exploration of DNA-level mutations, Dr. Hawkins’ lab specifically studies what types of mutations cause DIPGs to form and what types occur as the disease progresses. “Autopsy tissue samples have been so helpful because it has allowed us to see what these tumor cells do by the end [of the disease], and we know that [tumor cells] infiltrate the brain very extensively,” said Dr. Hawkins. “The dream is to find drugs that can actually get into the brain and target the pathways that are abnormally active in DIPG tumors that are not there in normal cells, and then we get that into clinical trials.”

Dr. Hawkins explained that, although there is a lot more work to be done, the landscape of DIPG has changed significantly in the last five years and has allowed for a better, more systematic approach to addressing the disease. “People want to try new things that we have really good preclinical data for that work,” she said. Dr. Hawkins highlighted that funding from The ChadTough Foundation has helped her lab with its genetics work and in the generation of a transgenic mouse model. Her lab is also now starting to look at testing different drugs that target abnormal pathways in DIPG tumor cells and will focus on drugs for which toxicity data on adults already exist in an effort to move into clinical trials more quickly. Dr. Hawkins credits The ChadTough Foundation’s support with allowing her lab to try new “out of the box” ideas in the world of DIPG research.

This article was written by Ellen Klepack, a ChadTough volunteer writer.