Groundbreaking research to deliver new treatment options for patients with the most common and deadliest type of brain cancer has been supported through $4.6 million from the Medical Research Future Fund.

Electrical activity of the brain

The collaborative “GLIMMER” research program aims to improve survival outcomes and quality of life for patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer with a five-year survival rate of just 5 per cent.

The program brings together leading researchers and clinicians from the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH), WEHI, The Brain Cancer Centre, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (Peter Mac), the University of Melbourne, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

The “GLIMMER” program will focus on understanding drug failure, delivering new therapies and developing non-invasive tumour monitoring for glioblastoma.

Chief Investigator Dr Jim Whittle, medical oncologist at the RMH and Peter Mac and laboratory head at WEHI, said treatment approaches and survival rates for glioblastoma had not changed in decades.

“Informed by early and continuous engagement with patients and families affected by glioblastoma, the combined impact of this new research program will improve survival outcomes, quality of life and avoid unnecessary health burdens for this devastating disease,” Dr Whittle said.

The vast diversity of glioblastoma tumours is known to be a key driver of resistance to treatment but despite this, all patients receive standard treatment with radiation and chemotherapy.

Doctors are unable to tailor treatment to individual patients to improve their outcomes because there are currently no biomarkers that could precisely identify glioblastoma tumour sub-types.

“GLIMMER” is an innovative program of preclinical research that will leverage unique access to patient samples, data and infrastructure.
The program consists of a pipeline of early to late translational science structured to ensure new findings can rapidly enter the clinic.

Researchers will examine the impact of treatment through unique access to pre-treatment, on-treatment and recurrent tumour tissue, enabling a comprehensive understanding of treatment failure to better inform the development of new therapies.

The program will deliver novel genomic tools for improving treatment decisions, new tumour targets for drug development and cellular therapies, and a non-invasive “liquid” biopsy ready for scale.

The customised liquid biopsy will reduce the need for repeat invasive neurosurgery, improving diagnosis, early identification of treatment resistance and monitoring of glioblastoma patients.

The research program consolidates the establishment of The Brain Cancer Centre, which was launched in October 2021 with a vision that one day no lives are lost to brain cancer.

WEHI Director and Head of The Brain Cancer Centre, Professor Doug Hilton AO, said the new funding would support deep collaboration across Melbourne’s biomedical precinct.

“This program brings together some of the brightest minds around a shared goal of improving the lives of people diagnosed with brain cancer,” Professor Hilton said.

“It’s a reflection of the sustained, coordinated and long-term commitment to collaborative research and discovery that drives our efforts to make a real impact on brain cancer patients, now and in the future."

The “GLIMMER” program has been awarded a 2021 Brain Cancer Research grant, part of the Medical Research Future Fund.

Mobile Stroke Unit with Ambulance Victoria paramedic and the RMH Stroke team
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