New research from Flinders University and funded through Cancer Council’s Beat Cancer Project will investigate how the body’s own cerebrospinal fluid can impact chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment for brain cancer.
The research, led by Director of the Laboratory for Human Neurobiology at SAHMRI, Associate Professor Cedric Bardy, aims to understand the influence of the human brain on the progression and identity of cancer cells.
Brain cancer is one of the most devastating forms of cancer in Australia, with patients expected to live an average of 15 months after diagnosis. The chance of surviving five years after diagnosis is just 22 per cent. Brain cancer is also the leading cause of cancer death in adolescents and young adults.
“Cancer cells are notoriously clever and we suspect the biochemistry in the brain makes them even smarter,” Associate Professor Bardy said.
“A solid tumour can be removed from the brain but there are always rogue cancer cells left behind. We think there’s something about the brain biochemistry that helps these cells change their identity and become resistant to treatment.”
“Our project aims to unmask these new identities so we can plan targeted, personal treatments to eliminate these remnant cancer cells.”
A/Prof Bardy hopes that through the project, his team can better understand brain cancer and, ultimately, save more Australian lives.
“The diagnosis of brain cancer is often very sudden and made when the tumour is at an advanced stage. At such a dramatic moment in the patient’s life, the best treatment options can often have marginal benefits, which is why this project is so important,” he said.
“Through understanding brain cancer cells and their resistance to treatment, we hope to help the thousands of Australians and their families who are affected by brain cancer every year.”
The 12-month project is one of five projects funded through the latest round of Cancer Council Beat Cancer Project grants. A collaboration between Cancer Council SA, SAHMRI, the State Government and the three South Australian Universities, Cancer Council’s Beat Cancer Project has invested $10.07 million towards strengthening South Australia’s cancer research workforce in the past five years.
Cancer Council SA Chief Executive Lincoln Size congratulated A/Prof Bardy on receiving funding for this ground breaking new project. “This research is critical in understanding how brain cancer cells work and will hopefully lead to better treatments for individuals and their families,” he said. “We are incredibly proud of Cancer Council’s Beat Cancer Project and the critical role it plays in supporting world class research projects right here in South Australia that will lead us closer to a cancer free future,” he said.
A/Prof Bardy thanked Cancer Council SA for supporting this exciting new project. “My team is so grateful to Cancer Council SA for recognising the importance of this project and the impact it can have for every Australian impacted by brain cancer,” he said.
Professor Robert Saint, Flinders University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) also thanked Cancer Council SA for their generous support. “First-class medical and health research at Flinders University, including vital areas of neuroscience and clinical oncology, is supported and enabled by the generous support of organisations such as Cancer Council SA,” he said
The following South Australian researchers also received funding through the latest round of Beat Cancer Project grants.
• Associate Professor Richard D’Andrea, University of South Australia; Understanding and targeting a unique metabolic vulnerability in acute myeloid leukaemia.
• Professor Deborah White, The University of Adelaide and SAHMRI; The gut microbiome in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia: can it be harnessed to improve patient response and recovery from treatment?
• Professor Tim Hughes, The University of Adelaide and SAHMRI; Activating dormant leukaemic stem cells: a novel pathway towards cure in chronic myeloid leukaemia.
• Dr Jacqueline Bowden, The University of Adelaide and SAHMRI; Reducing parental facilitation of teenage drinking: new perspectives and approaches.