Meet Augustine Eze – Tissue Navigator
My name is Augustine Eze and I have the privilege of serving as the Tissue Navigator at Children’s National Hospital. Coming from a small city in North Carolina, I came to D.C. for college in 2012 and have continued to love every moment in our nation’s capital. As an undergraduate student, I studied Biology with a focus in Global Health and have a graduate degree in Physiology and Biophysics. For the past two years, I have been involved in the clinical research field. Previously, I was involved in high-risk obstetrical and neonatal research and this is my first time becoming involved in cancer research.
When I learned about the position as a tissue navigator, I was immediately drawn to the unique role of conducting bench research and interacting with these families. Through my previous experience, I have seen the breadth of familial strength in times of trauma and incredible stress. In this position, I wanted to be able to work hand-in-hand with these resilient families in facilitating their desire to drive the research forward with their generous donation. This position has already shown me the critical and devastating nature of these diseases and the toll it takes on one’s entire family. I desire to work with these families and make their journey as impactful as possible.
Initiatives like GFAC and foundations like Swifty are so incredibly important because they encourage families to do all that they can in these exceedingly difficult situations. These initiatives allow families the chance to help others going through a similar experience, allowing research to be done to eventually find a cure. In the heartbreaking premature end of a child’s life, the donations allow for the family to battle cancer with the progress of research. I expect the initiatives to continue to grow as both advocacy and awareness of these programs increases. Furthermore, as families begin to see the large impact of their donation, they will hopefully encourage others to consider the same.
Tissue donation is an invaluable part of research. Without the abundance generosity of many families, pediatric cancer research would not have made the enormous leaps that is has over the past decade. And although the research is incredibly crucial, developing relationships and making meaningful impact in each family is even more important.
Recent Publications from Centers of Excellence
Harmonization of Post-mortem Donations for Pediatric Brain Tumors and Molecular Characterization of Difuse Midline Gliomas
Children diagnosed with brain tumors have the lowest overall survival of all pediatric cancers. To address the paucity of tissue for biological studies, we have established a comprehensive protocol for the coordination and processing of donated specimens at postmortem. Since 2010, 60 postmortem pediatric brain tumor donations from 26 institutions were coordinated and collected. Patient derived xenograft models and cell cultures were successfully created (76% and 44% of attempts respectively), irrespective of postmortem processing time. Histological analysis of mid-sagittal whole brain sections revealed evidence of treatment response, immune cell infiltration and the migratory path of infiltrating H3K27M DMG cells into other midline structures and cerebral lobes. Sequencing of primary and disseminated tumors confirmed the presence of oncogenic driver mutations and their obligate partners. Our findings highlight the importance of postmortem tissue donations as an invaluable resource to accelerate research, potentially leading to improved outcomes for children with aggressive brain tumors. Read Full Publication
Dr. Monje-Deisseroth and her team at Stanford University recently published a paper detailing how gliomas are able to “hijack” the brain's communication system.
Published in Nature: High-grade gliomas are lethal brain cancers whose progression is robustly regulated by neuronal activity. Activity-regulated release of growth factors promotes glioma growth, but this alone is insufficient to explain the effect that neuronal activity exerts on glioma progression. Here we show that neuron and glioma interactions include electrochemical communication through bona fide AMPA receptor-dependent neuron–glioma synapses. Read More
Congratulations to two of our Center of Excellence teams lead by Dr Javad Nazarian and Dr. Michelle Monje on their recent groundbreaking research publication. Due in part to increased access to post-mortem tissuethe teams were able to study a larger sample of DIPG tumors. Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma is a lethal pediatric brain cancer characterized by H3K27M histone mutation. Nagaraja et al. characterize a large cohort of rare primary tumors and normal pontine tissue to reveal active regulatory element heterogeneity dependent upon the histone variant and cell context in which the mutation occurs. Read More
Research Breakthroughs Resulting from Autopsy Tissue
Why Autopsy Tissue is Needed to Empower Research