Researchers aiming to outsmart brain cancer

11 May 2021
Researchers aiming to outsmart brain cancer

New research from SAHMRI and Flinders University, 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.  

A team led by Associate Professor Cedric Bardy, the Director of the Laboratory for Human Neurobiology at SAHMRI, aims to understand the influence of the human brain on the progression and identity of cancer cells.  

“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.”  

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.  

Associate Professor 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.  

Cancer Council’s Beat Cancer Project is a collaboration between Cancer Council SA, SAHMRI, the State Government and the three South Australian Universities. It has invested $10.07 million towards strengthening South Australia’s cancer research workforce in the past five years. 

The following South Australian researchers also received funding through the latest round of Beat Cancer Project grants. 

  • 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. 
  • Associate Professor Richard D’Andrea, University of South Australia; Understanding and targeting a unique metabolic vulnerability in acute myeloid leukaemia.