Brainchild recently donated a research grant of $100,000 to Professor Brandon Wainwright and Dr Tim Hassall from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience to enable a pilot study in Brisbane which will be used to design new and innovative clinical trials in the future.
Until recently the only way to obtain the genomics of brain cancer was to biopsy the brain, but Professor Wainwright and Dr Hassall have developed a less invasive biopsy that can detect DNA in a patient’s spinal fluid that has leaked from brain tumours, eliminating the need for invasive surgery. This ‘Liquid Biopsy’ is obtained by doing a lumbar puncture, which is a routine test performed many times during a child’s treatment for brain cancer.
Precision medicine is the process by which the genomics (genetic information) of a cancer can be used to help understand the mechanisms of how cancers function and to potentially identify new therapies. Until recently the only way to obtain the genomics of a cancer was to obtain tumour tissue (usually by operating and doing a biopsy of the child’s brain). It has been shown that most cancers leak tumour DNA (circulating tumour DNA – ctDNA) into bodily fluids such as blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). In brain cancer it has been shown that CSF is the most reliable bodily fluid to sample to detect ctDNA.
The ability to detect ctDNA in CSF can have several important applications in brain cancer patients. Firstly, it could be used to show a response to therapy, giving clinicians another method of tracking the tumour rather than relying solely on imaging. Secondly, it is well known that many cancers continue to evolve during treatment, which is one mechanism by which cancers develop resistance to therapies. If ctDNA can be detected, and the genomic analysis demonstrates evolution, then it may be possible to alter treatment before the cancer progresses.
Brainchild Foundation is very proud to support this exciting new initiative and look forward to seeing the results of the pilot study.