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The Ultimate Act of Altruism

Parents donate their son’s brain tumor to advance cancer research
Antonio Iavarone, M.D. (center), giving the Prescott family a tour of his research laboratory.

Lab tour photo by Britten King


hen Catherine and Andrew Prescott’s son, Austen, was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, a rare and aggressive pediatric brain cancer, the Miami couple was told the only treatments were palliative. The parents were desperate to save their son, and Austen underwent two neurosurgeries, 40 rounds of radiation and four experimental chemotherapies through clinical trials. In the end, his tumor was too powerful, and he passed away last year at the age of 18.

That same tumor is now helping to find a cure for the devastating disease that took Austen’s young life. In the ultimate act of altruism, the Prescotts donated their son’s tumor to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, where neuro-oncologists Antonio Iavarone, M.D., and Anna Lasorella, M.D., experts in DIPG and other aggressive brain tumors, have been studying it.

“The Prescotts’ selflessness is immeasurable,” said Dr. Lasorella, a member of Sylvester and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Miller School. “We cannot be more grateful to them. They care so much that they have given a piece of their child.”

Using Austen’s tumor tissue, the researchers have been able to replicate cancer cells and test drug therapies with the hope of discovering a cure for these incurable brain tumors.

“With tumor tissue, we can better understand what the mutations are, the alteration in the genome and DNA that transformed normal cells into cancer cells,” said Dr. Iavarone, deputy director of Sylvester and professor of neurological surgery and biochemistry and molecular biology at the Miller School. “This is a crucial step in moving potential treatments forward.”

To financially support the doctors’ efforts, the Prescotts established Team 620 on ’CaneFunder, UM’s online fundraising platform. Team 620 signifies Austen’s birthday and the time of day when family and friends prayed for him throughout his cancer journey.

“Even in his lowest moments, Austen found empathy for others,” Catherine Prescott said. “He didn’t want other children to suffer. He always wanted them to have hope. We hope this fund in his honor will propel research, create clinical trials and lead us closer to a cure.”

To support Team 620, visit the fundraising page here.