Research Grant 1:
Awarded to Dr Megan Hitchins, University of New South Wales
Malignant brain cancer is rare, but the death rate within 5 years is extremely high and there is currently no cure. Patients respond differently to drug therapy. If patients have a single gene (called MGMT) turned off, they are more likely to better respond to drugs and live longer. But some people with the gene turned off don’t respond well to drugs. Dr Hitchins is working to understand why this is. If we can predict how successful a treatment will be, it will mean that we can treat people far more effectively.
Research Grant 2:
Awarded to Dr Geraldine M O’Neill, The Childrens Hospital at Westmead
The spread of glioblastoma brain tumour cells through healthy brain tissue is a leading cause of death from glioblastomas. This research aims to understand how one particular protein, NEDD9, allows the spreading cancer cells to sense the local environment and thereby pull themselves through the healthy brain tissue. This will help develop ways to stop cancers spreading, making them far less deadly.
Research Grant 3:
Awarded to Dr Kerrie L McDonald, Lowy Cancer research centre
Glioblastoma (a type of brain cancer) is extremely resistant to radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Almost all glioblastomas regrow in the brain after treatment, often even nastier than before. This is why the survival rate for glioblastomas is so low, with patients living on average only 15 months.
“We’re on the verge of coming up with some pretty useful clinical changes. You don’t need motivation to work in brain cancer – if you can just make one small improvement it’s all worthwhile.”
A better understanding of how glioblastoma becomes resistant to treatment would help clinicians predict how a patient will respond to a particular therapy, leading to better drug selection and improved overall survival. Glioblastoma is a very diverse disease – two cancers that look the same can respond very differently to drugs. Worse, the brain cancer cells that survive the first treatment are often genetically different when they re-emerge. This project will begin to unravel this diversity by looking deeply at the genetics behind it. Dr Kerrie McDonald and her team have already discovered a subtype of glioblastoma that is significantly easier to treat. Expanding on this, they hope to find genes that can help predict treatment efficiency in all glioblastoma patients. Knowing which treatments work best on each subtype would allow clinicians to more accurately diagnose and treat brain cancer patients, substantially improving treatments. This could mean longer survival and better quality of life for patients.
Research Grant 4:
Awarded to Dr Gianluca Severi, Cancer Council Victoria
Glioma is the most common type of primary brain tumour in adults, accounting for more than 80% of brain and central nervous system cancers. It is currently incurable and presents a significant health burden in Australia; despite this, its cause is still unknown in most cases.
“Glioma is so aggressive and causes enormous grief, yet we can’t do much at the moment to help patients and their families. That’s what drives me to do this research: the hope that we can improve cancer control, prevention, and clinical practice.”
This project hopes to improve our knowledge of what causes glioma and what affects its progression. Associate Professor Gianluca Severi and his team will recruit 800 glioma patients and 800 healthy family members from across Australia to form one of the largest epidemiological studies of glioma in the world. The researchers will collect information on the lifestyle of the participants as well as their family history of cancer. They will also ask participants to donate a blood sample which will be used to search for genes that are responsible for this cancer. This information will help identify what increases the risk of getting glioma and whether a particular lifestyle choice or genetic mutation is responsible.
With your support we have funded over $4.8 million worth of research grants in brain cancer during 2011 alone, and over $9 million over the last five years. Our research projects will help to identify people at risk, provide optimum treatment options, and help the development of new therapies and procedures that will extend the lives of brain cancer patients.
To expand our programs and continue supporting the highest calibre of research, we need to build up to raising over $1,400,000 each year.