Prof Stefan Pfister

Photo Stefan farbig

German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg Germany

Pediatric Neurooncology currently is a vibrant field of research with countless critical achievements in recent years to understand the molecular biology of childhood brain tumors and translate molecular findings into clinical practice. This is desperately needed from a clinical perspective, since brain tumors have become the number one cause of cancer related mortality of children, at least in part due to the fact that for the far more frequent hematological neoplasms these achievements have been made well before and have already been in clinical use for many years. Our group aims to bridge the gap between generating genomic screening data (microarray-based as well as by next-generation sequencing) and exploiting these data for the sake of our patients. This on the one hand includes the identification, validation and clinical application of prognostic and predictive biomarkers as well as functional characterization of newly identified mutations in different childhood brain tumors including medulloblastoma, ependymoma, pilocytic astrocytoma, and glioblastoma. The other major focus involves the systematic pre-clinical testing of novel drug targets, often in combination with established cytotoxic drugs and/or chemotherapy to treat models (in vitro and in vivo), and ultimately patients, based on the genetic/molecular signature of the individual tumor (“personalized oncology”).

The immense biological heterogeneity of childhood brain tumors between and within tumors, the knowledge of which is a prerequisite for targeted treatment approaches, is still poorly understood and thus currently hindering such approaches on a regular basis in the clinic. To overcome this shortcoming, we will continue to comprehensively understand the entire genetic and epigenetic diversity of childhood brain tumors within and across histopathological entities. A large and continuously growing repertoire of preclinical models will allow us to specifically test biological hypotheses gained from genome-wide primary tumor analyses in vitro and in vivo before they are recommended for use in patients. Another focus will be the analysis of clonality within tumors, their respective metastases, and tumor relapses by ultra-deep next-generation sequencing techniques. This should allow us to appropriately consider the biological importance of subclones present already in the primary tumor that confer tumor dissemination, local tumor re-growth, and therapy resistance. As a third major focus, we have started focusing on the detection of tumor-specific alterations in moodily fluids, such as cerebrospinal fluid, and plasma, which can be exploited for molecular diagnostics, tumor cell clearance (minimal residual disease), detection of molecular drug targets, and primary resistance mechanisms

Organising Committee

Michelle Haber (Chair)   
Kiri Collins
Tony Phillips    
Maria Kavallaris
Carol Wadham    
Liz Wynn    
David Ziegler    
Greg Arndt
Jessica Keath
Murray Norris
Amanda Philp
Peter Wejbora
Denise Yu
Maree Overall (ASN Events)

Program Committee

Maria Kavallaris (Chair)
Michelle Haber
Richard Lock
Glenn Marshall
Amanda Philp
Toby Trahair   
David Ziegler
Jenny Byrne (SCHN)
Phil Hogg (UNSW)
Debbie Marsh (USYD)
Clare Scott (WEHI)
Alex Swarbrick (Garvan)   
Nikki Verrills (HMRI/UON)
Jamie Fletcher
Tao Liu
Karen MacKenzie
Murray Norris
Rosemary Sutton
Peter Wejbora
Tracy Bryan (CMRI)
Peter Gunning (UNSW)
Lisa Horvath (Lighthouse)
Grant McArthur (Peter Mac)
Ian Street (WEHI)
Mathew Vadas (Centenary)
Maree Overall (ASN)