The 2019 NRL Beanie for Brain Cancer Round saw huge amount of beanies sold for the Mark Hughes Foundation and half a million dollars of the funds raised has been dedicated to a three year Fellowship in brain cancer research.
The HMRI Early to Mid-Career Research Fellowship Scheme attracted strong, nationwide interest from early-to-mid career researchers with promising, high quality research in brain cancer research.
After a highly competive process, Dr Julius Woongki Kim from the Children’s Medical Research Institute at the University of Sydney was awarded the Fellowship to develop emerging anti-tumour therapies for patients with high-grade glioma (HGG).
Despite advancements in aggressive therapies such as surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the survival rate of HGG is still only around 14 months with more than 1,200 Australians dying from the disease every year.
Dr Kim has developed a two-pronged immunotherapy treatment for HGG by enhancing a patient’s immunity and specifically targeting it against HGG. This research project is the first of its kind in Australia, Dr Kim explains.
“I aim to develop and validate a new immunotherapeutic platform that can overcome many hurdles of the immunotherapy against the brain tumour,’’ Dr Kim said. “My approach is highly targeted, cost-effective combinatorial immunotherapy and also has the potential to target the residual brain tumour cells and thus prevent the tumour recurrence.’’
This exciting new work aims to repurpose a patient’s existing key immune cells (called dendritic cells) to fight against HGG by carrying immune agents directly into the tumour sites and enhancing the immune cells ability to efficiently and specifically kill HGG cells.
After successfully confirming the feasibility of this approach in the lab using an in vivo approach, Dr Kim is excited about translating these findings in the lab using primary patient-derived tumours alongside pre-clinical models thanks to this Fellowship.
“This generous fellowship from Mark Hughes Foundation will enable me to develop highly promising immunotherapeutic approach specifically designed for treatment of the brain tumour.’’
“The 2019 NRL Beanie For Brain Cancer Round was an enormous success. It was fantastic to see so many beanie-clad heads out in the stands,” said Mark Hughes, founder of the Mark Hughes Foundation. “Every beanie purchased helps us to fund vital research into brain cancer.”
“We’re thrilled that the funds raised from the round can go toward helping Dr Kim focus on delivering better outcomes for people with HGG – a devastating form of brain cancer,” Mark adds.
HMRI Institute Director Professor Tom Walley says that HMRI is delighted to work with the Mark Hughes Foundation to deliver this Fellowship to advance brain cancer research in Australia.
“Thanks to these funds from the community we now have a number of researchers here in the Hunter and nationwide striving to deliver better outcomes to patients and their families,” Professor Walley said.
“It’s through collaborative, national research like this that enables Fellowships and research grants that help us to improve outcomes for people living with brain cancer.”