The University of Newcastle, Australia

Expanding the horizons of brain cancer research

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A raft of Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF) travel grants will give Hunter brain cancer researchers the chance to build new clinical trial collaborations at the international COGNO Annual Scientific Meeting in Brisbane this month.

With COGNO (Co-operative Trials Group for Neuro-Oncology) drawing top researchers from around Australia and the world, HMRI and its partners – Hunter New England Health and University of Newcastle – will be represented by Dr Craig Gedye and Dr Pia Laegdsgaard. Dr Adrian Lee from the Sydney Neuro-Oncology Group (SNOG) is also attending with MHF support.

Dr Gedye, a medical oncologist at Calvary Mater Newcastle and HMRI Cancer Research Fellow, is working to develop new clinical studies with fellow COGNO members and seeking to improve trial access for Hunter New England Health patients.

"There has been an explosion in understanding of cancer in recent decades and this is beginning to translate into novel treatments for patients," Dr Gedye said. "The Medical Oncology Research team at Calvary Mater Newcastle recently secured a new brain cancer trial and is hoping to join another trial next year, pending resources."

Dr Laegdsgaard, along with Dr Gedye, will be showcasing the Hunter Cancer Biobank's dedicated brain cancer collection that's supported by MHF.

A research officer for the Hunter Cancer Research Alliance, Dr Laegdsgaard has developed a scientific poster outlining the processes involved in establishing and managing sequential blood collections as part of the brain cancer bank.

"Tissue samples that have been donated by patients are accumulated and disseminated for research into brain cancer but we're also testing the feasibility of collecting sequential blood samples from these patients as an additional resource for research," she said.

"This is an innovative concept for biobanking and the COGNO meeting will provide an opportunity to promote this aspect to a wide research community specifically interested in brain cancer."

Dr Lee is presenting data on the use of the drug Bevacizumab in Glioma (a tumour that begins in the brain's glial cells). The therapy improves quality of life and delays disease progression but potentially increases the risk of clotting and bleeding.

MHF co-founder Mark Hughes is confident that the increased exposure and experience will help deliver better treatments for Hunter patients and communities throughout Australia.

"By giving our scientists and clinicians the chance to network at the cutting edge of global research they can ensure that brain cancer patients in Australia are among the first in the world to benefit from new therapies and technologies as they arise," Mr Hughes said.

MHF is also funding a number of international visits in coming weeks.

Calvary Mater Newcastle radiation oncologist Dr Mike Fay is attending the American Society for Therapeutic Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) meeting in San Antonio, Texas, from October 18-21.

"ASTRO brings together around 11,000 cancer professionals with the aim of promoting multidisciplinary care and growing research partnerships," Dr Fay said. "The meeting this year is titled 'Technology meets patient care' and our group is keen to develop better brain tumour imaging and therapeutics."

Dr Fay is focusing on a common brain malignancy known as Glioblastoma multiforme which, he says, has defied most modern treatments.

"People diagnosed with GBM will experience a rapid spread of disease throughout the brain and, sadly, at least half will die by the end of the first year," he added. "GBM is difficult to remove surgically and inherently resistant to radiotherapy, so we are investigating ways to increase its sensitivity to radiation."

Marina Kastelan, Glioma care coordinator at SNOG, is also heading to San Antonio in November for the 20th Society for Neuro-Oncology Annual Scientific Meeting and Education Day. She is currently studying the impact of high-grade Glioma diagnosis on carer fatigue levels.

A further MHF grant was used last month, with Dr Viive Howell from SNOG joining the inaugural International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference in New York.


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