Imagine the fear of not being able to tell your children the severity of your cancer. You have terminal cancer. Added to this, your wife worked in palliative care for many years and knows too well the truth behind sinister cancer.
This is the real situation of Paul, 48, a former Gold Coast primary school teacher and father of two; his youngest son is only 14 years of age.
Earlier this year, Paul was pulling in to his driveway when he suddenly blacked out. He suffered a seizure. Following surgery, Paul was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer – glioblastoma.
The cold fact of glioblastoma is that it is the most aggressive variant of malignant brain cancer. It has a poor prognosis with low rate of survival, on average, 14 months from diagnosis. Currently there is no cure and only one in 10 cases is likely to survive five years.
Despite surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, this cancer invariably returns.
Approximately 1500 Australians are diagnosed with brain cancer annually and 800 of those have glioblastoma (GBM).
In the last ten years an antibody discovered has proven safe for the treatment of leukaemia. The target of that antibody (the EphA3 protein) is now known to be present in about 40% of GBM tumours.
We now have a tool to specifically kill GBM cells.
A clinical trial based on this research is set to commence in early 2016. This trail will involve 40 patients from Brisbane and Melbourne with recurrent GBM receiving weekly infusions of the antibody, with regular imaging to chart the impact.
Dr Brett Stringer, scientist at QIMR Berghofer said, “With the right goodwill and the right financial backing, treatment can feasibly move to become a standard care for GBM in hospitals within five years.”
Paul’s hopes for the future rest on what our ongoing research and this clinical trial might tell scientists.
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