Catching up with Research fellows Dr. Mike Fay and Dr. Kelly McKelvey

Dr. Mike Fay was awarded the MHF HMRI Clinical Research Fellowship in early 2017 and he and his team, based at the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) have been working on a number of translational brain cancer projects. The problem being addressed is that there are few treatment options for patients with high grade brain cancerat recurrence after the patient’s primary treatment. Mike is focussed on the need to identify why these patients relapse and to change the treatment to meet this challenge. Mike’s solution is to focus on a number of steps utilising the MHF Brain Cancer Biobank to help us identify new therapies, cell line models to identify resistance mechanisms, PET imaging to assess effectiveness in individual patients, using old drugs to overcome treatment resistance and new drugs which work on blocking DNA repair.

 

PET Imaging Trial

An imaging trial has been set up in Newcastle in conjunction with the CSIRO and Genesis Care to gather preliminary data for a wider clinical trial using PET imaging on high grade brain cancers to adjust treatment options for patients. 

Valproate as a radiation sensitiser in brain cancer Data from a recent study in Brisbane are currently being analysed in Newcastle. The study looked at Valproate and its effects on response to radiotherapy. Mike hopes to have results of this treatment trial very soon.

Investigation of a marker of brain cancer aggressiveness PSMA is being looked at in tissue samples from patients previously treated for brain cancer who generously donated samples to the MHF brain cancer biobank. This study should help us know how many patients could be helped by adjusting treatment options.

Identification of the mechanisms of treatment resistance in glioblastoma.

Working with a research team and database based in Sweden the team are looking to develop and test models of hypoxia (low oxygen) in brain tumours and the effect this has on treatment.

Dr Kelly McKelvey was awarded the MHF’s Matt Callander Beanie for Brain Cancer Research Fellowship in 2017 and is unravelling the tumour microenvironment of brain cancer.

Kelly and her team at the Bill Walsh Lab at the Kolling Institute and The Brain Cancer Group have established a pre-clinical model of high grade brain cancer (glioblastoma) in which the inflammatory and immune response is being deciphered. Results have shown that as the immune system responds, overtime it becomes ‘exhausted’ enabling the cancer to take hold. The next step is to determine which immune cell types are pertinent to sustaining the immune response against cancer cells. This will be done by utilising a combination of neuro surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapies to re-activate and stabilise the immune system in order to prolong tumour control and patient survival.

Kelly presented this work recently at leading international conferences including the Association of Radiation Research 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland; European Association of Neuro-Oncology 2018, Stockholm, Sweden; and Society of Neuro-Oncology 2018, New Orleans, USA.

It is great to see MHF’s investment in both people and biobank infrastructure working together on these exciting projects.

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Recent Research Funding

At the recent HMRI awards night three of MHF’s generous supporters handed out research grants: Earlier this year Charlie Sutton donated an incredible $100,000 and these funds will support Dr Elizabeth Fradgley who will research a systemic screening and referral process for Glioma patients and their caregivers.

 

The Man Shake’s Adam and Belinda MacDougall awarded Dr. Kathryn Skelding $100,000 to look at newtreatment strategies for treating aggressive braincancers. The Manshake have been amazing supportersof MHF over a number of years donating in total$250,000.

 

And in a very special moment an award was presented in memory of Olivia Addison. The 21yr olds dying wish

was to raise $50,000 for brain cancer research. Her family have worked so hard and that total is now $100,000! Thanks to this fundraising, Dr Amanda Hudson will be researching the ability to re-purpose old drugs as new treatments for brain cancer.

 

MHF have this year invested in Collaborative research hubs in pre-clinical and genomic research based at the Kolling Institute and Hunter Medical Research Institute.

 

These platforms will accelerate the progress of new therapies for brain cancer from the laboratory to clinical trials by providing researchers with easy access to research capabilities they do not have. This will have the flow-on effect of strengthening collaborative research in brain cancer in Australia.

MHF also look forward to opening an Australia wide funding round late this year focused on research

innovation and collaboration – ensuring that the great minds across the country work together to change and improve outcomes for patients through research.

 

In other exciting news the Australian Brain Cancer Mission are currently reviewing all applications forresearch grants in which MHF contributed 2.5 millionover 5 years. We look forward to announcing thesuccessful researchers in the New Year as well.