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07
Sep
2020

Revolutionary new clinical trial gives hope to Australian children with deadly brain cancer

 

Brain cancer kills more Australian children than any disease, and kids with HGG have a 10 to 20 per cent chance of survival – zero if it relapses or progresses.

This revolutionary new trial aims to rapidly turn those odds around by forcing a child’s own immune system to fight their individual tumour. HGGs “trick” the immune system into leaving them unchecked, allowing them to grow and kill. But researchers have discovered that drugs called checkpoint inhibitors can stop the immune system from falling for this deadly immune trick.

Unfortunately for brain cancer patients, while checkpoint inhibitors have been very effective in other cancers, like melanoma and lung cancer, several factors, like crossing the blood-brain-barrier, have made immunotherapy largely ineffective in brain cancer.

But new research has shown that when checkpoint inhibitors are administered prior to surgery to remove a brain tumour, the patient’s immune system is “primed” to fight the cancer post-surgery when they’re administered again later.

This is called neo-adjuvant immunotherapy and has been shown to prolong survival in earlier research. This method forms the basis of the NICHE-HGG trial, using the immunotherapy drugs nivolumab and ipilimumab, which have proven to be effective in other cancers.

Trial lead, Dr Nick Gottardo, who is based at Perth’s Telethon Kid’s Institute, says “We’re priming the immune response against cancer cells to trigger a stronger anti-cancer effect when the drugs are given again after the cancer has been resected. Thanks to support from Cure Brain Cancer Foundation and Love for Lachie, children in Australia and New Zealand will have access to this cutting-edge treatment, which we hope will improve survival for kids with these dreadful brain cancers.”

NICHE-HGG trial lead Dr Nick Gottardo

The trial will be Australia’s first collaboration with the newly established global Paediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium and will greatly increase Australia’s international collaborations and give Australians greater access to overseas clinical trials. 

This latest funding takes Cure Brain Cancer Foundation’s investment in paediatric-related brain cancer projects to more than $8 million since 2013, with Love for Lachie contributing greatly to that over several years.

“We are so thankful to our community of supporters and volunteers,” says Tanja Muldoon, Co-Founder of Love for Lachie. “They have passionately supported our fundraising over the past five years, raising more than $1.4m for children’s brain cancer research and bringing hope to families diagnosed with brain cancer.”

“Only by funding ground-breaking research and backing promising clinical trials, like NICHE-HGG, will we see the increases in survival we so desperately need,” says Cure Brain Cancer Foundation’s Head of Research, Dr Robert Rapkins.

The NICHE-HGG trial will also be funded by the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation, allowing the trial sponsor - the Australian and New Zealand Children's Haematology/Oncology Group (ANZCHOG), to open this trial at nine children's cancer centres throughout Australia and New Zealand.

For more information on how to enrol a loved one onto the NICHE-HHG trial, speak to your treating oncologist. 

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