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KC Business Journal: Husband-wife team declares war on brain cancer

Dr. Tom Curran and Dr. Jessie Ng evaluate pediatric brain cancer treatments

Children’s Mercy Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Tom Curran and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Dr. Jessie Ng have a long history. The husband-and-wife duo have worked together for more than a decade, evaluating pediatric brain cancer treatments.

Before Curran joined Children’s Mercy in February 2016, Ng worked for Curran at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he led translational childhood cancer research. Among numerous projects, he and Ng tested a new treatment for medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor in children.

“Just identifying a drug — that’s the beginning,” Curran said. “Frankly, you have to anticipate there will be resistance in any cancer treatment. Cancer’s like the Hydra — you chop off one head, and two grow back.”

Ng began her first foray into cancer research after meeting Curran. Growing up in the Netherlands, she earned a doctorate at Erasmus University, where she studied genetically inherited disorders.

The timing was perfect, Ng said. Just after she finished her degree, she won a free plane ticket to Hong Kong, where she attended a medical conference on neuroscience. There, she saw Curran present his research.

"I liked his talk," she said. "I thought maybe I could apply to his lab."

Although they never officially met at the conference, Ng got the job, where she began researching a rare, aggressive brain cancer: atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors (AT/RT). She continues this line of work today, more than 10 years after she met a 3-year-old diagnosed with AT/RT.

“After I met with them, her mom took me aside, hugged me and begged me find a cure for (her) kid,” Ng said. “I said, ‘I cannot promise, but I will try my best to find a cure.’”

Curran began his research after earning a doctorate at University College London, focusing on oncogenes, or genes that can turn a normal, healthy cell into a tumor cell. He continued to research new treatments for a pharmaceutical company, before looking to translate his discoveries to the clinical side.

“Working on brain tumors in children adds layers of complications and challenges,” he said. “That’s really why I think it’s really important to expose scientists who may not have had a medical background to the clinical environment.”


Read the full story via the Kansas City Business Journal

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Read about the Children's Research Institute at Children's Mercy.