Teaming up to tackle brain cancer

Monday, 20 September 2021

The Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF) has committed $7.5 million to fund a dedicated brain cancer team to drive critical research, education and health care improvements for brain cancer patients and their families.

The board of the Mark Hughes Foundation
Mark Hughes Foundation members (L-R Nicolas Dan, Julie Ainsworth, Britt Owens, Kirralee Hughes, Mark Hughes, Jenny Hawes and Sharyn Rogers)

The generous philanthropic commitment to the University of Newcastle will scale up Australia’s brain cancer research over the next five years in an effort to significantly improve treatments and patient outcomes that have changed little in the past 30 years.

Former Newcastle Knights NRL player and father of three, Mark Hughes, hopes that a dedicated brain cancer team at the University of Newcastle will build on the momentum of existing collaborators to form a world-leading team to tackle this complex cancer.

“Our commitment will take brain cancer research to the next level – and quickly. By partnering with the University of Newcastle we are expanding the support team around every brain cancer patient, not just here, but everywhere around the world,” said Mr Hughes.

This generous gift from the Mark Hughes Foundation means we can accelerate the urgent work needed to provide better care and treatment outcomes for every brain cancer patient around the world.”

Professor Zee Upton, Pro Vice-Chancellor (College of Health, Medicine and Wellbeing)

Brain cancer kills more Australians under 40 than any other disease. It is the most complex cancer yet it is the most under-studied. Survival rates have hardly changed for 30 years.

Brain power to target most complex cancer

Harnessing the undeniable power of a team approach is at the core of the new philanthropic partnership. Taking research out of the lab and into the community will be a priority, with the University of Newcastle brain cancer team partnering with clinicians, patients and their families as part of the research program.

Each year around 1,600 Australians are diagnosed with brain cancer – and around 1,200 die – yet it is chronically underfunded, receiving less than 5 per cent of government cancer research funding.

The much-needed research will span all ages, but the team will seek to fill a recognised gap in adult brain cancer. Prevention, early detection, recovery and rehabilitation, treatments and models of care for all stages of brain cancer will be under the spotlight; and there will be opportunities for early career researchers and PhD candidates to drive future research in the field.

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Newcastle, Professor Brian Kelly said in recruiting the Mark Hughes Foundation Chair in Brain Cancer, the University will be looking for both a cutting-edge researcher, and a committed and active clinician.

“To crack this disease and make a difference to the lives of people with brain cancer and their families we need fresh ideas and the courage to pursue them.

“We want our work to both improve the lives of people with brain cancer straight away and future-proof brain cancer research. Breakthroughs can happen when new perspectives and voices are heard."

Backed by The Mark Hughes Foundation

The University of Newcastle is honoured to be building on the immense community support already generated by the Mark Hughes Foundation. After Mark was diagnosed with a high-grade brain tumour in 2013, he and his wife Kirralee Hughes formed the Foundation to raise funds for research, create awareness and support brain cancer patients and their families. By working together, we can urgently advance outcomes for brain cancer research and education to help families in Australia and across the globe struggling with this devastating disease.

To celebrate this great partnership why not grab your very own MHF beanie from

Read more stories featured in the GiftDownload your copy of the Gift

Aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

3 - Good health and well-being4 - Quality education17 - Partnerships for the goals

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.