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Cure Brain Cancer Neuro-oncology Group

The Cure Brain Cancer Neuro-oncology group is based at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. It is headed up by A/Prof Kerrie McDonald. Cure Brain Cancer Foundation has been funding the lab, which focuses on precision medicine, since 2009. Donate to Cure Brain Cancer Foundation by 30 June to fund vital research and clinical trials for brain cancer.

Associate Professor Kerrie McDonald 


The lab focuses on precision medicine; one patient, one treatment. It aims to acheive a better understanding of the patient’s biology and a holistic understanding of druggable targets and druggable pathways that will lead to improved survival times. Cure Brain Cancer has been funding the lab since 2009. 

Cure Brain Cancer is taking a disruptive approach to find innovative ways to get new treatments to patients, faster. Help fund work like this.

The lab specializes in:

  • Defining drug-diagnostic combinations where the presence of a molecular target or marker identifies who are most likely to respond to a specific therapy.
  • Culturing and growing patient specimens in real-time to foster a “personalised medicine” approach utilizing patient derived xenografts (PDX) models. With time, we hope that we can report back to the clinicians with drugs and drug combinations that have reduced tumour size.
  • Working with clinical trial groups and consortiums to identify “responders” to the treatment and better understand the underlying biology.
  • Developing a better understanding of the mechanisms of cancer resistance. 

The team work closely with A/Prof Charlie Teo and his surgical teams to collect tissue samples post-operatively and grow them in mice models. These models closely represent how tumours behave in the patients and the model retains all genetic features and the blood-brain barrier. This overcomes a significant hurdle with drug development.

Through their work, they aim to achieve new and more targeted treatments to improve survival times. 

Precision medicine and tailored treatments 

The research idea is n=1. The one treatment fits all approach has not worked and a better understanding of the patient’s biology and a holistic understanding of druggable targets and druggable pathways will lead to improved survival times. 

Read more about the Group's work in these areas.  

Exceptional response to Avastin 

The Group was awarded funding through our 2014 grant round for a project analysing the genomes of exceptional responders to Avastin, in order to better define clinically-relevant molecular phenotypes that can be built on to facilitate better patient selection for Avastin and other anti-VEGF targeted regimens.  

Read more about this project. 

Glioblastoma study: understanding long-term survivors

Glioblastoma is considered incurable. Long-term survival is defined as survival beyond 5 years, however fewer than 5% of patients survive this long.

The Cure Brain Cancer Neuro-oncology Group is determined to elucidate some of the as yet unknown mechanisms allowing for the long-term survival of glioblastoma. This study is looking at both what drives the long-term survival of the tumour and also the long-term survival of some patients.

 “It's our job to study the miracle patients and extend that success to, not just a handful, but the vast majority of patients. I think that is possible within 10 years.” 

- A/Prof Kerrie McDonald, Chair of Cure Brain Cancer Neuro-oncology Group, UNSW

Read more about this study.

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