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Johannes Gojo receives CERN PFA Ependymoma Translational Research Award

Project grant for the development of therapies for rare pediatric ependymal tumors
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(Newton/USA, 08 February 2024) Johannes Gojo, Professor of Pediatric Neuro-Oncology at MedUni Vienna, has received the inaugural CERN PFA Ependymoma Translational Research Award from the National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS). Johannes Gojo will lead an interdisciplinary team of pediatric brain cancer experts in a project entitled "Targeting DNA damage response to eradicate ependymoma persister cells (DEEpend)". With the overarching goal of translating promising research findings for a particularly aggressive type of pediatric brain tumor into the clinic, the group will receive $450,000 over three years.

The scientific goals of the grant build on his previous research showing that a portion of PFA cells in a tumor have stem cell-like characteristics and lead to recurrent tumors. Based on preliminary data from the Gojo lab, in part supported by a CCC Research grant, the project will investigate whether these "persister cells" can be targeted by adding inhibitors of DNA damage repair to standard chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments. To enable the most direct translation of research findings into a potential clinical trial, the team will draw on currently available, extensive datasets of ependymomas, multiple types of ependymoma models and high-throughput screening of already approved drugs to identify the best combination therapies that can be introduced into the clinic as a new treatment for PFA ependymoma patients.

The project team consists of translational researchers with biological and clinical backgrounds, all of whom have many years of experience in ependymoma research and the investigation of innovative therapeutic concepts. Under the coordination of Johannes Gojo, the project will benefit from the collaboration of the entire pediatric neuro-oncology program of the Medical University of Vienna, including Walter Berger, Deputy Head of the Center for Cancer Research; Christine Haberler from the Division of Neuropathology and Neurochemistry at the Department of Neurology, Franziska Eckert, Deputy Head of the Department of Radiation Oncology, and Daniela Lötsch-Gojo from the Department of Neurosurgery. They are supported by international researchers, including Marcel Kool, Princess Maxima Center Utrecht/KiTZ Heidelberg, Mariella Filbin, Harvard Medical School/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Julia Schüler, Charles River Freiburg i. Br., Germany, and Samuel Abbou, Gustave Roussy, Paris.

PFA ependymoma: a rare but aggressive brain tumor
PFA ependymoma is a rare but aggressive brain tumor that occurs mainly in younger patients, primarily infants, with an average age of three years at diagnosis. In particular recently identified high-risk suptypes are generally associated with a poor outcome, as they tend to recur even after complete removal of the tumor and subsequent radiation and chemotherapy. Even with current standard therapy the 10-year overall survival rate is only about 60 percent.

About the person
Johannes Gojo completed his studies in human medicine at the Medical University of Vienna in 2012. In 2018, he completed his doctoral studies in "Clinical Neurosciences" with his dissertation entitled "Molecular Biomarkers in Pediatric Ependymoma". Pediatric neuro-oncology has been Johannes Gojo's professional focus from the beginning of his career. As a specialist in pediatrics and adolescent medicine, he habilitated at MedUni Vienna in 2021 on the topic of "Applying precision medicine to improve diagnoses and treatment of pediatric brain tumors". His training as a specialist in pediatrics and adolescent medicine was followed by a degree in paediatric haematology and oncology in 2021. Research stays have taken the winner of numerous prizes to Boston and Heidelberg, and in addition to other positions and areas of responsibility, he has been a member of the Executive Board of the Comprehensive Cancer Center of MedUni Vienna and University Hospital Vienna since 2021. In September 2023, Johannes Gojo took up a Professorship of Pediatric Neuro-Oncology at MedUni Vienna.