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 include:

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

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Inflaming the Brain: Chemotherapy effects on Cognitive Function in Child Cancer Survivors

For children who survive childhood cancer, the burden continues, with up to 70% of survivors experiencing chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment (CICI). CICI impairs attention, and memory, which profoundly impacts academic and social performance, as well as quality of life. To date, the brain changes that give rise to these impairments are unknown. In this study we will determine whether a specific type of inflammation in the brain contributes to CICI development over an acute and chronic time course. The results will facilitate development of targeted therapies for prevention of CICI, in addition to informing clinical assessment protocols and survivorship care plans.

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Dr Alexandra Whittaker

Paediatric Brain Tumour Research, University of Adelaide

Developing a comprehensive glioblastoma brain tumour resource for testing new and existing brain tumour therapies

Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most commonly diagnosed malignant brain tumour in adults, affecting approximately 1000 Australian adults annually. With very few treatment options available, it is a highly fatal cancer with a median survival of less than 15 months and less than 5% survival after 5 years. Our goal is to generate a well characterised bank of GBM brain cancer cells, derived from patient tumour tissue, growing in the laboratory and in animals. These cells will provide a powerful resource for GBM research, both locally and nationally, which may lead to improved therapies for these devastating brain tumours.

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Dr Melinda Tea

Centre for Cancer Biology, University of South Australia

Arming a patient’s immune system to treat aggressive brain cancer

Glioblastoma (GBM) is a highly aggressive form of brain cancer. Most patients only survive for around 15 months after diagnosis, and there have been no significant improvements to treatment for more than 10 years. Here, we aim to develop a new and highly targeted treatment for GBM using Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)-T cells. This type of therapy uses a patient’s own immune system to attack their cancer cells and has shown remarkable success in treating some types of leukaemia. Our new data suggests that we may now be able to adapt this approach to treat GBM.

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Dr Lisa Ebert

Centre for Cancer Biology, University of South Australia

A new approach to deliver drugs to brain tumours

The blood-brain barrier is a major impediment to the treatment of brain tumours. Many drugs that may otherwise have potent anti-brain tumour properties, cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, and thus are ineffectual as brain tumour therapeutics. This proposal builds on recent findings that FTY720, an approved drug for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, can cause short term opening of the blood-brain barrier. Thus, we propose to examine the potential re-purposing of FTY720 to allow the entry of existing anti-cancer drugs across the blood-brain barrier and into brain tumours. Successful outcomes will, therefore, provide new therapeutic strategies to treat brain tumours.

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Dr Briony Gliddon

Centre for Cancer Biology, University of South Australia

Region-specific brain organoids for rapid and personalised pre-clinical test of treatments for glioblastoma

Glioblastoma (GBM) prognosis and treatment is profoundly affected by its anatomic location. Given the importance of tumour location and the microenvironment in GBM progression, there is an urgent need for the development of in-vitro models that facilitate the analysis of brain tumours in a more physiologically and relevant 3D setting. For this we will develop engineered synthetic hydrogel platforms to grow region specific human brain organoids to precisely model GBM progression in patient’s brain anatomical microenvironment. This will permit us to screen for drugs that stop tumour growth and invasion and identify the genes and pathways that drive these processes.

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Dr Guillermo A. Gomez

Centre for Cancer Biology, University of South Australia

Investigating the role of 14-3-3ζ in medulloblastoma, childhood brain cancer

Medulloblastoma arises from abnormal growth of cerebellar granule cells and is the leading cause of cancer-associated death in children. There is a desperate need to understand the molecular defects underlying this malignancy so that new therapies can be devised. Our unpublished work demonstrates that the scaffolding protein 14-3-3 is a key regulator of the sonic hedgehog signalling pathway which is thought to drive the growth of cerebellar granule cells, and medulloblastoma. We now plan to test if removal of 14-3-3 will reduce the burden of medulloblastoma in cell models of this disease.

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Dr Quenten Schwartz, PhD

University of South Australia

The establishment of a comprehensive database management system for the South Australian Neurological Tumour Bank

The SA Neurological Tumour Bank (SANTB) is a not-for-profit resource established to collect and bank blood and neurological tumour tissue from patients undergoing surgery to diagnose or remove their tumour. These specimens are available to researchers in SA and interstate to facilitate research projects into neurological cancer. NRF funds will help to establish and maintain a secure, customizable, web-based database management system to capture and link accurate, reliable and standardized patient clinical data (eg. pathology, treatment, survival) to each specimen. Obtaining comprehensive clinical data is extremely important to maximize the research value of each tumour collected in the drive to improve the outcome of patients with neurological cancer.

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Dr Rebecca Ormsby BSc (Hons)

PhD Coordinator, SA Neurological Tumour Bank

Coordinator, SA Brain Bank at the Centre for Neuroscience (Human Physiology)

Flinders University

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