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Queensland researchers and doctors join forces to tackle brain cancer

Improving outcomes for children and teenagers with brain cancer will be the focus of Australia’s first research centre aimed solely at tackling the cancer in young people.

Scientists from The University of Queensland are joining forces with other Brisbane researchers at the new Centre for Childhood and Adolescent Brain Cancer Research – which is funded by the Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Centre co‐director Professor Brandon Wainwright, from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), said brain cancer survival rates had barely changed in the past 30 years.

“Brain cancer treatments are not as effective as those we have for many other cancers, and must be administered on the brain while it is developing, so even those children who survive often experience neurological issues such as learning difficulties,” he said.

“We need a co‐ordinated approach examining all aspects of the disease, from better therapies to the services that children and their families need to improve quality of life during treatment and into the future.

“I thank the Children’s Hospital Foundation for recognising this fact too, and funding the centre to help improve outcomes for kids and teenagers with brain cancer.”

The centre will bring together leading researchers from UQ, the Queensland Children’s Hospital, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and QUT.

UQ is involved in a range of research projects through the centre.

Professor Wainwright, Associate Professor Irina Vetter (IMB) and Associate Professor Tim Hassall (UQ and Queensland Children’s Hospital) will lead a project to prevent the development of severe nerve pain that can result from the chemotherapy drug Vincristine, one of the best treatment options for medulloblastoma, the most common type of malignant brain tumour in children.

Dr Jens Bunt, from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute, will lead an international collaboration investigating the growth and development of embryonal tumour with multilayered rosettes (EMTR), a highly aggressive type of brain cancer that is commonly diagnosed in infants, in work that could form the basis of a more effective treatment.

Dr Roberta Mazzieri, from the UQ Diamantina Institute, will take a two‐pronged approach to combating glioblastoma by developing a method to make tumour cells more visible to the immune system and also using genetic engineering technology to boost the ability of immune cells to attack and eliminate the tumour.

The centre will be led by four directors: Professor Wainwright, paediatric oncologist Dr Tim Hassall (Queensland Children’s Hospital and UQ), Professor Bryan Day (QIMR Berghofer), and Professor Greig de Zubicaray (QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation).

It also includes Professor Stewart Trost and Dr Natalie Bradford (QUT), and funding for the Queensland Children’s Tumour Bank led by Dr Andy Moore (Queensland Children’s Hospital and UQ).

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