General Neurosurgical research

Neurosurgical and neurological research is used to treat and save the lives of children and adults living with life threatening medical conditions. Donations allow the funding of world class medical research into the cause, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease and injury of the brain, spine and nervous system.

Key Areas of Research

Neuroscience researchers are looking for ways to improve treatments which can save lives of children and adults living with these neurosurgical and neurological conditions.

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  • NRF Brain Tumour Research Chair: glioblastomal and medullablastomal research
  • Brain tumours: improving treatments
  • Stroke, brain haemorrhage and aneurysms: developing surgical treatments
  • Paediatric research: identifying trends leading to improving treatment outcomes
  • Spinal cord injury: as a result of sporting or car accidents
  • Traumatic brain injury: how to halt life threatening brain swelling
  • Neurodegeneration:

Parkinson's disease: understanding and slowing down the progression of this condition

Concussion: how to stop the neurodegeneration in head trauma caused by concussion

Click here to donate to General Neurosurgical Research.

NRF Brain Tumour Research Chair

The NRF launches $1m attack on lethal brain tumours by establishing the NRF Brain Tumour Research Chair at the University of South Australia

These funds will help UniSA’s leading brain tumour researcher, Professor Stuart Pitson, further his research into glioblastoma, a highly malignant and the most commonly diagnosed brain tumour in adults and medulloblastoma in children.

The research team will work towards developing new drugs in the fight against lethal brain tumours. Glioblastoma is one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer and is especially resistant to treatment. This cancer affects people of all ages and has an extremely low survival rate – with a median survival time from diagnosis of approximately 15 months – it is a devastating disease.

Prof Pitson and his team have identified the defect in the glioblastoma cells that appears to cause the cancerous tumour to grow rapidly and become resistant to chemotherapy.

“This single defect, involving hyper-activation of the SK2 protein, is an ideal target for new therapies for glioblastoma. We have developed inhibitor drugs to the SK2 protein which are showing great promise in the laboratory and pre-clinical models. The continued and generous support from NRF will allow my team to enhance our promising research and bring us closer to clinical application. It is essential that we are doing all that we can, and as quickly as we possibly can, to find more effective treatments for glioblastoma so we can increase patient prognosis,” Prof Stuart Pitson.

Click here to donate to NRF Brain Tumour Research Chair

Video 1: More effective chemotherapy treatment for Glioblastoma.

Research examining more effective chemotherapy treatment for one of the most lethal brain cancers, Glioblastoma.

Video 2: Targeting glioblastoma cancer stem cells.

One reason for the poor patient outcome is due to the presence of cancer stem cells within the tumour. These glioblastoma stem cells are resistant to current anti-cancer therapies and they can rapidly regenerate the tumour once a course of drug and radiotherapy treatment is concluded. The Laboratory has developed new drug highly effective at killing the stem cells of other cancers and looking at extending this to glioblastoma stem cells.


Brain cancer costs more per person than any other cancer, yet only receives a small fraction of federal government cancer research funding.

  • About 1, 600 Australians are diagnosed with a brain tumour year
  • About 650 of those are children
  • About 1,000 Australians (about 80 in SA) are diagnosed with glioblastoma each year
  • 4 people every day are diagnosed
  • Kill more people under the age of 40 than any other cancer
  • Kill more children in Australia than ANY other disease
  • Mortality rates have barely changed in 50 years
  • Treatment is challenging because it affects our most vital organ

Click here to donate to NRF Brain Tumour Research Chair.

Brain Tumour Research

Much of the death and disability of tumours is attributable to their ability to spread and invade the brain leading to devastating consequences such as brain swelling. Brain cancer kills more adults under 40 than any other cancer, kills more children than any other disease, and takes one life about every seven hours in Australia.

Aims of current Brain Tumour Research at the University of Adelaide as part of the Dean Bowman Research Laboratory include:

  • Decrease brain swelling to improve quality of life
  • Reduce invasiveness to enhance surgical treatments
  • Impede tumour growth to prolong survival.

Stefan Court-Kowalski's Research focuses on tumours that originate in the brain, again using a highly specialised drug that will reduce the tumours' ability to grow and invade surrounding healthy brain. Primary Brain Tumours

Kimberley Mander has developed a system that artificially replicates part of the barrier that separates our brain from our bloodstream. When cancers around the body spread to the brain, they unlock this barrier and squeeze through. Kim's work focusses on locking down the barrier, stopping metastasis in its tracks, using a targeted drug treatment. Secondary Brain Tumours.

Click here to donate to Brain Tumour Research.

Stroke Research

Over 72,000 Australians suffer a stroke each year, 2/3 of which are left dead or disabled as a result.

Stroke Research:

The stroke research team, led by Dr Renée Turner, is using novel, pre-clinical models to map the development of brain swelling and changes in brain pressure following stroke in order to develop targeted and more effective treatments to reduce the devastating morbidity and mortality associated with these conditions.

Annabel Sorby-Adams research is looking at that brain swelling and increased brain pressure which are the leading causes of death and disability in the first week following stroke. Annabel’s investigations will examine the effect of a treatment, the NK1 tachykinin receptor antagonist and whether it can prevent the development of brain swelling and life threatening elevations in brain pressure.

Click here to donate to Stroke Research.

Paediatric Neurosurgical Research

Neurosurgery saves children's lives every day. Medical research saves children's lives in the future.

Research into brain disease and injury in children will be the primary focus. At present, children die every day or their lives are destroyed through conditions such as:

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  • Epilepsy
  • Brain tumours
  • Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)
  • Brain haemorrhage
  • Stroke
  • Aneurysms

This Paediatric Appeal will fund lifesaving research into these deadly, life destroying conditions and diseases.

Key Areas of Expenditure

Medical research for children requires special techniques because a child's brain is not fully developed. There is potential for regrowth, development, and self-healing. We need you to partner with us in our mission to fund Paediatric Neurosurgical Research into the treatment of brain and spinal diseases and injury in children. Neurosurgical research is resulting in more lives saved and better patient recovery.

Click here to donate to The Paediatric Appeal.

Traumatic Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Research

Traumatic Brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of disability and death worldwide and is associated with significant impairment in brain function, impacting cognitive, emotional, behavioural and physical functioning. It is estimated that as many as 54-60 million people worldwide suffer from a TBI each year. While the acute effects of TBI are well characterized, a significant number of people affected by TBI develop long-lasting neuropsychiatric and cognitive impairments. TBI is also a significant risk factor for later development of dementia and Parkinson’s disease, although the brain mechanisms behind this association are still poorly understood.

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) leaves patients disabled and dependent for basic daily activities. There are currently no effective treatments available for SCI and novel therapies are urgently required to reduce such devastating disability.

Click here to donate to the Traumatic Brain Injury Research Appeal

Spinal Cord Injury Research:

Dr Anna Leonard’ research is targeting raised pressure within the spinal cord after a traumatic spinal cord injury. Future studies will focus on increasing the space in which the spinal cord exists to accommodate for its increased volume due to swelling. This will alleviate the subsequent pressure increase, promoting tissue survival and reducing functional deficits.

Traumatic Brain Injury Research:

Dr Lyndsey Collins-Praino: While the acute effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) are well-known, a number of individuals affected by TBI also develop chronic problems such as depression and cognitive impairment. Although the brain mechanisms of these impairments are currently unclear, persistent inflammation in the brain may play a key role.

Our current NRF-funded research projects investigate whether reducing brain inflammation immediately after injury can improve long-term outcomes in an experimental model of TBI. This work may have important consequences for the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia.

Stephanie Plummer is investigating a peptide derived from the amyloid precursor protein(app), as a novel therapeutic agent against traumatic brain injury. Our recently published series of studies convincingly demonstrates that a protein found naturally within the brain cells, the amyloid precursor protein (APP), has a protective role against TBI. We, in collaboration with our colleagues at the University of Melbourne who are experts in APP biology, have also identified the specific region in APP that is responsible for this protective activity. Our work has established APP to be a viable and novel therapeutic agent for treating TBI. We now plan to improve the protective activity of APP in order to make it a better therapeutic molecule for the treatment of TBI.

Click here to donate to the Traumatic Brain Injury Research Appeal

Neurodegeneration Research

Neurodegenerative diseases are diseases associated with both the abnormal build-up of toxic aggregates of protein and the death of neurons (brain cells) in particular areas of the brain. This class of diseases includes multiple conditions, but the two most common are dementia and Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia. There are more than 413,106 Australians living with dementia, with one new case diagnosed every 6 minutes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting up to 70% of all people with dementia. Without a medical breakthrough soon, the number of Australian with dementia is expected to soar to more than 900,000 by 2050.

Parkinson’s disease is also a significant issue, both here in Australia and throughout the world. There are currently 8-10 million cases of PD worldwide. In Australia alone, there are more than 70,000 cases, with PD affecting 1 in every 340 Australians. Given our rapidly ageing population, this number is expected to double by 2030. PD currently costs the Australian economy more than $1.1 billion each year!

Currently, there are no treatments to stop the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, with available options only providing some relief from the symptoms of these conditions. Before a cure can be developed, it is critical that we understand more about the factors that can lead to the development of neurodegeneration.

Click here to donate to the Neurodegeneration Research Appeal

Neurodegenerative Disease Research:

Dr Lyndsey Collins-Praino, is investigating how brain inflammation changes over time, and whether this is associated with brain changes characteristic of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. One major risk factor for these diseases is traumatic brain injury (TBI). While it is not yet clear how TBI can lead to the brain changes seen in PD, often decades after the original injury, TBI is known to be associated with the induction of significant inflammation in the brain. This may set the stage for the later emergence of neurodegenerative disease. This raises the exciting possibility that targeting inflammation after injury may help to reduce the incidence of these conditions, at least in a subset of the population.

Dr Collins-Praino is also focused on understanding the brain mechanisms that underlie cognitive impairments, such as memory problems and difficulties with planning and paying attention, in these conditions.

Dr Emma Thornton is the only researcher in the world who has identified that substance P plays a role in dopamine cell death in Parkinson’s disease (PD). In PD, dopamine levels decrease due to a slow and progressive death of brain cells. It is critical for the treatment of PD to target this cell death When we block its action with an antagonist, we protect dopamine cells and restore brain function. Testing this discovery in patients is in progress.

Neurodegeneration Concussion Research:

Neurodegeneration Concussion: An especially common injury in contact sports such as football, chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a neurodegenerative disease, which appears to be exclusively related to repeated concussion.

Dr Francis Corrigan Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative disease which appears to be exclusively related to repeated concussion. This research considers the mechanisms by which systemic inflammation accelerates the disease process, leading to neuronal cell death.

Dr Francis Corrigan’s research examines how concussion – particularly repeated concussion – may increase the risk of developing cognitive deficits later in life. Previous research has suggested that levels of substance P (SP) are higher in adolescents and thus they may have a greater inflammatory response to a concussive insult than an adult. We will be investigating whether blockade of this inflammatory response – by preventing the actions of SP – will prevent the development of cognitive deficits following concussion in adolescence.

Click here to donate to the Neurodegeneration Research Appeal

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