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Did you know brain cancer kills more children in Australia than any other disease? It also kills more people under 40 than any other cancer.

Finding more effective treatments for this heartbreaking disease is crucial, which is why The Hospital Research Foundation is supporting an important new clinical trial planned to treat this aggressive cancer.

Leading Adelaide medical oncologist Professor Michael Brown, Director of the Cancer Clinical Trials Unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Head of Translational Oncology at the Centre for Cancer Biology, is embarking on a new T-cell therapy for adult and paediatric patients with aggressive brain cancers.

“Brain cancer is one of the toughest cancers there is to treat and the median survival is about 15 months after first diagnosis,” Professor Brown said.

“Typically patients undergo surgery to remove the bulk of the tumor, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. There is a period of time after treatment where patients start to feel better, however relapse is common and there is no standard treatment once you relapse.”

In this new clinical trial, Professor Brown and his team are engineering cancer-killing T-cells in the laboratory to create “CAR T-cells”, which have a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) for targeting cancer cells.

“We want to use CAR T-cells, the patient’s own cells are further expanded in number in the laboratory so that enough of them can be returned to the patient’s blood circulation by intravenous infusion.

“Once in the blood, the CAR T-cells can home in on the site of the brain cancer and attack the cancer cells. After the CAR T-cells are given, we will follow up each patient regularly with an MRI scan of the brain, and thus we will learn if the brain cancer shrinks of grows.”

Approximately 1,000 aggressive brain cancers are diagnosed each year in Australia, which equates to roughly one person diagnosed with brain cancer every nine hours.

Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain cancer and accounts for almost two-thirds of all Australian brain cancers.

Professor Brown is grateful for his Translational Grant from The Hospital Research Foundation to kickstart this lifesaving work, which will focus on Glioblastoma, and also hopes to expand it further.

“While we plan for this trial to intervene in the cases of relapse, the best chance of doing something is actually at the beginning and more funding is needed to target this stage.”

Making progress within this heartbreaking disease is what drives Professor Brown and his research arm, the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB), which is part of the National Zero Childhood Cancer Initiative.

CCB Co-Director, Professor Angel Lopez AO, said better outcomes for patients was their main objective: “At the CCB we are committed to excellence in cancer research and it is very pleasing to see when this research is applied to make patients’ lives better.”

To support Professor Brown’s lifesaving research into brain cancer, click here.