Dr Tessa Gargett image

Dr Tessa Gargett

In 2018, Tessa Garget was awarded the UniSA Chris Adams Research grant. She shares with us here what the grant enabled her to do and how this has positively impacted her brain cancer research.

Can you please provide an overview of your research project funded by the 2018 UniSA Chris Adams grant?

We are developing a new form of therapy for brain cancer. It is a cell-based therapy that is manufactured from a patient’s own white blood cells. This type of therapy (known as CAR-T cell therapy) has had dramatic results in patients with lymphoma, with many patients completely cleared of their cancer. We want to extend the promise to other patients, such as those with glioblastoma. We are also hoping to target a rare childhood brain cancer known as Diffuse Midline Glioma (DMG). We have shown that our CAR-T cells can kill glioblastoma in the lab and are now preparing to test them in clinical trials.

What did you use the funding to do?

I have used the funding to further our collaboration with Dr David Ziegler at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, a world-specialist in DMG, and with a leading research group in Stanford who have a similar CAR-T cell therapy trial planned for next year. The funding allowed Dr Ziegler to send us precious blood and tumour samples to test and we have confirmed that we can make CAR-T cells for these patients and that they work in the lab.

Can you please provide an overview of the outcomes of the research funding?

In early 2020 we will submit applications to the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the relevant human research ethics committees to get approval for two clinical trials, one for glioblastoma patients at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and one for DMG patients at the Sydney Children’s Hospital. We hope that we will be able to begin recruiting patients for these trials next year.

Current NRF-funded projects include:

Development of genetically engineered adoptive cell therapies to treat diffuse midline glioma in children

Funding: $50,000 – NRF Paediatric Research Fund – University of Adelaide

Project: Standard treatments for childhood brain cancers are unsatisfactory. The cancer cells grow back and cause death in almost all patients. Breakthrough treatments using engineered white blood cells have transformed survival prospects for patients with blood cancers. We want to extend the promise of this cell therapy to brain cancer patients. Here, we will combine our expertise in basic and clinical science to develop a new cell therapy program and so harness the power of the immune system to beat brain cancer.

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