RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: DAVID ZIEGLER, MD

david-ziegler

Paediatric Haematology & Oncology Consultant

Sydney Children’s Hospital, Sydney, Australia

  1. Where are you from?/Where did you study?

I am from Sydney, Australia. I work at Sydney Children’s Hospital and have a laboratory program in DIPG at the Children’s Cancer Institute, Australia. I studied at the University of New South Wales and did a Fulbright Scholarship at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

  1. What are you researching right now?

Our DIPG research focuses on the development of novel therapeutics that can be translated to clinical trial. We are focusing on 4 main areas that seem to be important ways to attack DIPG cells. These include tumour cell metabolism, the cell cycle, epigenetic reprogramming, and the mTOR pathway. I also run a clinical trials program – all the scientists in my lab know that their ultimate aim needs to be directed at helping patients as soon as possible.

  1. Who is your all-time favorite scientist and why?

Prof Andrew Kung is now the Chair of Pediatrics at MSKCC but was my mentor at Dana Farber and introduced me to preclinical research. He taught me how to think critically, how to ask the right questions, and when to realize you need to change direction.

  1. What do you like to do in your spare time?

I have four children who keep me busy! The current activity that keeps both me and them entertained is doing puppet shows – although most often this seems to be used as an effective way to delay bedtime.

  1. Favorite food?

There is a fantastic Australian dessert called Pavlova – I love both to make it and to eat it!

  1. Why science?

Science is the engine that drives all great advances in society – from childhood cancer treatments, to air travel, to quantum mechanics

  1. Who/What has inspired you to work on DIPG?

Without doubt it’s my patients and their parents. I was initially attracted to paediatric oncology because of my experience looking after children who went through difficult, intensive treatment, but ultimately were cured. It was inspiring to be part of that. But I soon realized that the greatest challenges remain for those children who are not cured. DIPG is probably the most aggressive cancer that can affect any child and it’s the one tumour, until recently, that we have known the least about. The most difficult conversation one can have is when you have to tell a parent that we have no effective treatments for their child. I want fewer of those conversations, and it’s the parents I speak to who have inspired, funded, instructed, and demanded the research we do. I remain convinced that we will see the same advances in DIPG treatment in the next 50 years that we have seen with ALL over the past 50 years. Except that 50 years is too long – we need to act as quickly as possible, but we need to ensure we act wisely so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.

  1. What are you reading right now?

The checklist manifesto by Atul Gawande. An interesting book that suggests that as doctors we should follow the same rigor as airline pilots to help ensure we maintain the best outcomes for our patients.

  1. If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering a research career, what would it be? 

Be prepared for failure and rejection! Cutting edge research means you are doing something that no-one else has every done before, which means that many times you will fail. But the times that you succeed will make it all worthwhile!

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