Lauren Hill, a college basketball player diagnosed with a rare childhood brain tumor, brought attention to the disease and raised more than $1 million for DIPG research. Hill passed away on April 10.
This article has been updated.
Lauren Hill, a freshman student-athlete at Mount St. Joseph University, has inspired many with her commitment to fulfilling her dream of playing college basketball despite a diagnosis of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an aggressive type of brain tumor. In early November, Hill scored the first and last basket during her team’s season-opening game, bringing national attention to the rare pediatric brain cancer and its slow research progress. Hill, played her final game on Dec. 16 due to deteriorating health, was named an honorary coach on Dec. 18, and passed away on April 10.
The lack of awareness and rarity of the cancer, which is diagnosed in about 100 to 150 patients in the U.S. each year, has made public fundraising for research difficult. The very nature of DIPG has also made it difficult to treat and research has not yielded many clues for a cure. Although there are currently clinical trials ongoing for DIPG, progress for improving survival rates have been stagnant over the past few decades.
DIPG originates in the pons, which is part of the brainstem located at the lower back of the brain. Due to the location and nature of DIPG, surgery is not an option and clinical trials of various chemotherapy regimens have not been found to extend survival. Radiation, a standard treatment to help reduce symptoms and cancer growth, usually work for a time, but can also cause inflammation. Steroids, which are used to reduce pressure on the brainstem, usually result in their own side effects, including painful swelling of the face.
Hill’s hope was to bring attention to the disease through her efforts on the court and in life.
Through Layup4Lauren.org, Hill raised funds via events, social media and telethons. On Dec. 30, Hill reached her goal of raising $1 million by the end of the year for DIPG research, which included an anonymous $116,000 donation made a day before her deadline. In addition, The V Foundation for Cancer Research and ESPN donated $100,000 to fund childhood brain cancer research in her honor.
“Lauren’s spirit and bravery are an inspiration to us all. In honor of her courage, The V Foundation is going to make a special grant of $100,000 to fund cutting-edge brain cancer research,” Susan Braun, the organization's CEO, said in a statement.