Cancer research team 'ecstatic' after Wellington teen's donated brain arrives

Author
Vita Molyneux, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 17 Oct 2021, 3:07PM
Jemima Gazley. (Photo / Givealittle)
Jemima Gazley. (Photo / Givealittle)

Cancer research team 'ecstatic' after Wellington teen's donated brain arrives

Author
Vita Molyneux, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 17 Oct 2021, 3:07PM

The brain of 15-year-old Jemima Gazley has arrived safely in Australia where it will be used to further research into the cancer that killed her.

The Wellington teenager died on Tuesday after spending the last week of her life tirelessly fundraising to raise money for Dr Matt Dun's research into diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG).

So far, the Givealittle page she set up has raised more than $577,000.

On Friday her father Oliver told the Herald her brain and stem cell line arrived at Newcastle University "in perfect condition".

"The research team are ecstatic. She just keeps on giving."

Dun told the Herald brain tissue donations are absolutely crucial to his work.

"Without donations from children who are diagnosed with DIPG or passing away from, we cannot continue to do our research. Brain tissue is imperative to try and unlock some of the clues of this most horrific and devastating form of childhood cancer."

For him, the fight for a cure is personal. In 2019, his 4-year-old daughter Josie died from DIPG.

Alongside a team of researchers, Dun is working to find some kind of treatment for the fast-moving cancer. The average survival time of DIPG post-diagnosis is just nine months.

Jemima's brain tissue allows him to create an immortalised living tumour, which he grows in his lab.

"We will sequence it in a number of different ways and that will give up some of the clues on how we unlock [the cancer] ... having the cell line growing in a lab we can repurpose drugs and see if they kill the tumour cells compared to the normal healthy brain tissue next to it."

But Dun says even getting the tissue to his lab in Australia required "a lot of moving parts" because parts of New Zealand were in lockdown.

Jemima has raised $586,571 for DIPG research in just two weeks after her story captured the hearts of thousands in New Zealand and further afield.

Taika Waititi described her as "his new little buddy" in a post on Twitter, saying he was heartbroken to hear of her death.

"Jemima was a wonderful, radiant 15 yr old girl who touched and inspired many people during her time with us," Waititi wrote.

"Even over her last couple of weeks, Jemima was determined to raise money for pediatric brain cancer research and clinical trials. Should you feel the feels and feel like donating, there's a link to her page in my bio. Mauri Ora."

Jemima's dad Oliver told Newstalk ZB his daughter was now "free" from her illness.

"Her soul's free and we know one day we'll see her again.

"We all believe there's another place we all go to, and we know she's there now and we know we'll see her again."

"She's free of this disease and she's walking and she's happy."