Investigators at the University of Michigan’s Koschmann Lab are researching how precision medicine, new portable DNA sequencing technology, and monitoring cerebrospinal fluid can advance treatment for children with pediatric high-grade gliomas (pHGG) and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), some of the most aggressive and deadliest pediatric brain tumors.

These fatal brain tumors commonly develop in or near the brainstem, which controls heartbeat, breathing, blood pressure, and many reflexes, ultimately enveloping it. Surgically obtaining a tissue sample from children with these high-risk tumors carries significant risk as neurological injury can occur as a result of biopsies and the DNA sequencing to accurately diagnose the specific tumor type typically takes two to four weeks. Because DIPG and pHGG tumors are very aggressive and tend to mutate quickly, the information discovered at diagnosis may no longer be current when treatment begins. This makes it very difficult to accurately target the tumor’s mutation.

The Koschmann Lab’s one-year “Rapid Molecular Testing of High Risk Brain Tumors” initiative, led by post-doctoral fellow Dr. John ‘Jack’ Wadden with funding from the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and Catching Up With Jack, includes an international partnership with scientists from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the University of California San Francisco, University Children’s Hospital, Zurich, and University of Oslo. With the aid of cutting-edge technology, the initiative is researching a new method to test a tumor’s growth markers through cerebrospinal fluid. If doctors can successfully use new portable DNA-sequencing technology to monitor cerebrospinal fluid to capture DNA from the tumors, this safer and less invasive procedure would eliminate the need to obtain tissue samples through repeated and risky brain surgeries and provide faster recovery and more accurate monitoring of children with high-risk brain tumors and their responses to targeted therapies.

PBTF is thrilled to have supported the efforts of this auspicious team in collaboration with Catching Up With Jack. “It is PBTF’s mission to actively promote and support collaboration across labs, institutions, and foundations to maximize the impact of funding pediatric brain tumor studies,” says Amy Weinstein, PBTF National Director, Research Investments & Advocacy. “We are proud to partner with the Catching Up With Jack community to fund the Koschmann Lab’s frontline, novel research to uncover new, low-cost, same-day metrics for the diagnosis and targeted treatment of children battling the most aggressive forms of pediatric brain tumors.”

You can learn more about how the Koschmann Lab’s research demonstrates that tumor DNA in spinal fluid could improve diagnosing and treating pediatric brain cancer patients here. Read more about this and other PBTF-funded grants at


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