New childhood brain centre brings fresh hope to families

A new centre backed by the Victorian Government is leading the nation's efforts against brain cancer and bringing fresh hope to patients and their families. 

Brain cancer kills more children in Australia than any other disease and has the lowest survival rates of almost any cancer, with four out of every five patients dying within five years of diagnosis. 

The Brain Cancer Centre will forge new frontiers in brain cancer research with the aim of significantly improving treatments and outcomes for patients now and for future generations. 

Founded by Carrie's Beanies 4 Brain Cancer and established in partnership with WEHI, the Brain Cancer Centre has an initial funding commitment of $40 million including a $16 million investment from the Victorian Government.  

The Centre includes research collaborations between WEHI, Peter MacCallum Cancer CentreRoyal Melbourne HospitalThe Royal Children's Hospital, Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI)Monash University, the University of Queensland and the VCCC Alliance.

The multidisciplinary team of experts, including MCRI Professor David Eisenstat and Associate Professor Jordan Hansford, will concentrate on new brain cancer discoveries, and aims to make rapid progress in the diagnosis and treatment of brain cancer.  

"In partnership with Associate Professor Misty Jenkins at WEHI, we are leading the Immunotherapy group within The Brain Cancer Centre to identify new CAR-T therapies (a form of immunotherapy that uses a part of the immune system to fight cancer) across childhood and adult brain cancers," Associate Professor Hansford said.  

The Victorian Government funding will also help deliver the Brain Perioperative Clinical Trial Program (Brain-POP) within the Brain Cancer Centre, to improve diagnosis and outcomes for paediatric, adolescent and adult patients.  

"As a broader group led by Professor Mark Rosenthal, Professor Kate Drummond and Dr Jim Whittle, we will use new clinical trials to administer early phase medications pre-operatively to better understand how these medications affect tumours," Associate Professor Hansford said.   

Professor Eisenstat said the team was investigating a number of brain tumours that have very poor outcomes and need new therapeutic approaches. 

"Our research aims to identify new proteins that are involved in the growth and survival of cancer cells, that will enable us to design new therapies," he said. 

"Brain-POP will enable small studies in children with brain cancer who have relapsed to better assess whether new or repurposed drugs can reach the tumour when the surgeon operates."  

Professor Eisenstat said the trial would run over four years, providing hope for children diagnosed with brain cancer, especially those with the worst prognosis.