Meet the researcher: Prof. Amin Hajitou

Prof. Amin Hajitou has had a long, award-winning career in research and is soon to finish his second research project with Children with Cancer UK, with outstanding results.

Amin Hajitou and team

Before Children with Cancer UK

After completing his PHD, Amin went to the US to work on targeting viruses and eliminating tumours – successfully completing a study in 2009 to remove cancer from dogs.

Amin continued to perfect this technology and make it more efficient at Imperial College London from 2007-2014. Amin’s technology has been published in the prestigious American Journal: Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, USA.

But how would Amin use this technology to help children?

Amin Hajitou

Tackling medulloblastoma

Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumour in children. Although 70 per cent of children affected by it will be cured, the necessarily aggressive treatments can leave them with significant cognitive disabilities. It is therefore crucial to save the quality of life of medulloblastoma survivors.

In Amin’s first research project funded by Children with Cancer UK, he used an improved version of the technology that he developed at Imperial College London to deliver and target therapeutic nucleic acid sequences to the tumour, resulting in a suppression of medulloblastoma. Moreover, doing so showed how there could be a less damaging new treatment option for young patients with medulloblastoma.

Amin is confident that this product is ready for clinical trials and is keen to see his work helping children in hospitals as soon as possible.

During his work on this project, Amin was awarded the Royal Medal by the King of Morocco for his research into targeted cancer treatments. The Royal Medal is the country’s highest and most coveted official honour.

But Amin did not want to stop there.

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Currently incurable brain tumour

In 2017, Amin started his second research project funded by Children with Cancer UK.

Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is a type of childhood brain tumour that is currently incurable, and while conventional therapies like radiotherapy can bring temporary improvement, ultimately children diagnosed with this tumour only survive for about a year. That’s why new research is urgently needed to combat this deadly cancer.

Amin’s research aims to lead to new therapies which can be used to treat children with DIPG. Some of the crucial elements of this therapy have already been used to safely treat children with other conditions, so these treatments could potentially be developed quite quickly.

Drug companies have already expressed interest in developing these treatments, so this research project represents a vital step towards new forms of therapy to successfully treat not only DIPG, but other types of brain tumours affecting children.

Amin Hajitou and team

Why childhood cancer research?

“That is a big and important question”, Amin said. Amin thinks it is unacceptable as a parent that more and more children continue to die from cancer. Although there has been vast success in leukaemia, now brain tumours are the biggest threat to children’s lives.

Amin says he will do “whatever it takes to see his research being taken forward clinically (…) my research is safe and can be performed repeatedly until the tumours are eradicated”.

Olivia rings the end of treatment bell