Our funding, this year, has been directed at a research project at the University of Queensland looking at “Integrating innovative models of the brain microenvironment to identify new treatment strategies for medulloblastoma”

  • Aim 1: To identify the extracellular matrix parameters that drive pro-survival signals in medulloblastoma
  • Aim 2: To determine the functionality of the blood-brain tumour barrier using a bioengineered vascularised co-culture in vitro platform and using zebrafish patientderived orthotopic xenograft models of medulloblastoma

The interdisciplinary approach is innovative. This project builds on research momentum and the expertise of a group of researchers who have complementary track records in cancer cell biology, mechanobiology, vascular biology and in vivo pre-clinical cancer models. It will define an unexplored aspect of brain cancer biology, allowing us to better understand the interplay between tumour cells and their microenvironments, plus the crucial role of mechanical force initiating chemical reactions.

Dr Laura Genovesi (Cancer biology, expert in brain tumours and preclinical mouse modelling) Dr Genovesi is a Cure Brain Cancer Foundation Research Fellow at UQ. Her research program focuses on discovering new therapies targeted to the biology of the tumour, that spare the effects on normal brain cells, and stop the growth of medulloblastoma.

Dr Samantha Stehbens (Molecular and cell biology, expert in cell invasion and migration, cell mechanics, bio reporters and imaging) Dr Stehbens is an ARC Future Fellow at IMB in the Division of Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine. Her laboratory focuses on how cancer cell invasion events are synchronized by chemical and mechanical signals during metastasis.

Dr Anne Lagendijk (Vascular biology, expert in imaging, cell mechanics and zebrafish modelling) Dr Lagendijk is an IMB Group Leader and her lab investigates how adhesion and cell mechanics are regulated in order to build and maintain a healthy vasculature.

Critically, these models will shed a light on the issue of tumour recurrence in response to targeted therapies and its impact to more effectively and safely treating paediatric brain cancer. This research can potentially determine if tumour recurrence is due to the not delivering the drug to all regions of the tumour due the blood brain barrier or, if it is due to cell behavioural changes as therapy proceeds, or both.

The power of this program of research is to better understand the exact basis of tumour recurrence allowing for the development of more effective frontline treatment approaches that combat the tumour. In turn, identifying new agents for clinical trials to be used in combination for children. If realised, this could lead to preventing the recurrence in the first place and determine if tumour vasculature and other aspects of the tumour microenvironment have a significant role in the ability to treat paediatric brain tumours.

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