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QIMR Berghofer helps give hope to children and teenagers with brain cancer

QIMR Berghofer scientists have helped establish Australia’s first brain cancer research centre aimed solely at improving treatment and care for young people with the disease.

The head of QIMR Berghofer’s Sid Faithful Brain Cancer Laboratory, Professor Bryan Day, will co-direct the new Centre for Child and Adolescent Brain Cancer Research (CCABCR), which is funded by the Children’s Hospital Foundation.

The centre also involves researchers from Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation; The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, Diamantina Institute and Queensland Brain Institute; and the clinical infrastructure and specialists of Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service.

Professor Day said one Australian child died every 11 days as a result of brain cancer – more than any other disease.

“Brain cancer is a nasty and aggressive disease and unfortunately the available treatments used to stop tumours growing don’t last for very long, so the survival rates are poor,” Professor Day said.

“The current treatments for children also damage the rest of their brains which can lead to learning difficulties, neurocognitive problems and, worryingly, predisposes them to other cancers later in life.

“That’s why we’re focussing on trying to find treatments that will target just the tumours themselves and not the normal brain.

“This new virtual centre, based in Brisbane, will bring together world-leading researchers and doctors to fast track discoveries and test new treatments for this terrible disease.”

The centre will play a vital role in the Australian Brain Cancer Mission, which aims to double survival rates and improve the quality of life of people living with brain cancer over the next 10 years, with the longer-term aim of defeating brain cancer.

The other co-directors are paediatric oncologist Dr Tim Hassall (Queensland Children’s Hospital and UQ), Professor Brandon Wainwright (UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience), and Professor Greig de Zubicaray (QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation).

The Children’s Hospital Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, Rosie Simpson, said the Centre was a game changer for paediatric brain cancer research in Australia.

“Sadly, some sub-types of brain cancer are incurable, and for many brain cancers the chances of relapse and recurrence are high,” Ms Simpson said.

“We are committed to delivering better outcomes for children and young people with brain cancer and this centre provides an opportunity to bring the most promising cancer knowledge, treatments and discoveries together to help save more young lives.”

Research already underway includes innovative projects contributing to the discovery of new therapies, trials to improve physical functioning and neurological ability in patients, and genetic engineering technology to reprogram immune cells to target brain tumours.