An Innovative Treatment Approach for DIPG: CureSearch for Children’s Cancer Partners with SebastianStrong Foundation to Fund Promising New Research

Dr. Ranjith Menon Muraleedharan

Contact: Tiffani Copeland
Senior Vice President, Development & Communications
CureSearch for Children’s Cancer

Bethesda, MD – July 30, 2020 – CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, in partnership with the SebastianStrong Foundation, has awarded a $225,000 Young Investigator grant to Yale Cancer Center’s Dr. Ranjith Menon Muraleedharan, who will develop a new treatment approach for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) – a devastating brain cancer with a 5-year survival rate of less than 1%. The 3-year project is funded by SebastianStrong Foundation’s Discovery Science Award.

DIPG is the most common brainstem tumor in children. It develops in the area of the brain responsible for the control of essential functions; damage resulting from either the tumor itself or its treatment has tremendous repercussions. Because DIPG cells spread out between normal brain cells, surgical removal of these tumors is not an option.

Dr. Muraleedharan, Associate Research Scientist in the Department of Therapeutic Radiology at Yale School of Medicine (YSM), will assess whether a NAMPT inhibitor-based treatment strategy will be effective against DIPG. With this project, he will with test specific targeted inhibitors in combination with radiation therapy and DNA damaging therapies that are already used in the clinic for glioma treatment. He aims to move his therapy into clinical trials within 3 years.

“DIPG represents a significant unmet need in childhood cancer treatments, and we’re proud to support a project that could change the odds for the kids facing this grim diagnosis” said Oscar Ortiz, Executive Director and Co-founder of SebastianStrong.

Dr. Muraleedharan’s mentor, Dr. Ranjit Bindra, Professor of Therapeutic Radiology at YSM, is a current CureSearch Catapult awardee who used a similar approach to move a new therapy from discovery to clinical trial in under two years.

“We’re thrilled to continue to support a lab with proven success moving new treatments quickly into the clinic where they can reach the children who so desperately need them,” said Kay Koehler, CureSearch President & CEO. “This type of innovative project often goes unfunded at this stage and it’s our goal to ensure that this promising work moves forward because our kids are counting on us.”

Dr. Muraleedharan’s project was selected as the recipient of SebastianStrong Foundation’s annual Discovery Science Award. The award is granted to research projects that are struggling to acquire funding and that use innovative methodologies and out-of-the-box approaches in the quest for less toxic cures. Proposals for the 2020 award were submitted by a number of prominent research institutions.


About SebastianStrong Foundation

SebastianStrong Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that is raising awareness of childhood cancers and funding research for less toxic, more targeted childhood cancer treatments and cures. SebastianStrong was founded in 2017 to honor the life of Sebastian Ortiz (2000-2016) and his courageous 14-month battle with rhabdomyosarcoma. Since then, the Foundation has awarded more than $1.2 million in grants to fund new and cutting-edge medical research across the country in the hopes of one day eradicating childhood cancers. The Foundation also provides financial support to assist kids and their families with the hardships of battling cancer. To learn more, follow us @SebsStrong (Instagram and Twitter) and @SebastianStrong (Facebook), and visit us at

About CureSearch for Children’s Cancer

CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, a national nonprofit organization based in Bethesda, MD, works to end childhood cancer by driving targeted and innovative research with measurable results in an accelerated time frame. CureSearch focuses on advancing the strongest research out of the laboratory and into clinical trials and development, where better, less-toxic treatments can quickly help children.

CureSearch Young Investigator Awards support researchers early in their careers to drive transformational science and deliver the next generation of cancer treatments.

For more information, visit, follow CureSearch on Twitter @curesearch or join the conversation on Facebook at

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