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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Grants to aid brain cancer research

Two medical researchers in the Hunter have been handed a share of more than $1.5 million to fight brain cancer.

The grants were awarded yesterday by the Newcastle-based Mark Hughes Foundation, which was set up in lieu of Hughes’ 2013 brain cancer diagnosis to raise awareness and funds for sufferers of the disease and their families.

Hughes said the community’s support of its Beanie for Brain Cancer campaign had allowed the foundation to provide grants to eight brain cancer researchers across Australia.

“My wife Kirralee and I were concerned how COVID-19 would impact fundraising as it’s been a tough year for everyone,” he said.

“But the support from the NRL and wider community during the Beanie for Brain Cancer Round in June this year, combined with our amazing supporters still finding a way to fundraise within COVID-19 restrictions, is overwhelming to us.”

The Mark Hughes Foundation has raised in excess of $20 million since its inception and funded new research to tackle brain cancer.

One of the grant recipients, University of Newcastle’s School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, Associate Professor Paul Tooney, expressed his delight at receiving support for his work.

Associate Professor Tooney’s research targets high grade brain cancers, where the traditional treatments of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are no longer effective once the cancer grows back, which it almost always does.

It attempts to track cancer signalling messages that are present in a patient’s blood, and whether these messages change as brain cancers grow due to lower levels of oxygen.

“I was so excited and absolutely over the moon when I was awarded a Mark Hughes Foundation Innovation grant last night,” Associate Professor Tooney said.

“Mark, Kirralee and the team at MHF have done so much to not only raise awareness about brain cancer, but [also] raise money for research so that we can develop better diagnosis and treatments for brain cancers, which is desperately needed.”

Associate Professor Tooney added the funds would allow the university and HMRI teams to study brain cancer and work together with the CSIRO in Brisbane and the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nantechnology (AIBN) at the University of Queensland.

“We will use blood samples collected by the Mark Hughes Foundation Brain Cancer Biobank, located here in Newcastle, [and] test a diagnostic device developed by the AIBN/CSIRO that will allow us to monitor the growth of brain cancers and how they respond to treatment,” he said.

“If we can detect and monitor brain cancers from a simple blood test then this would be a significant improvement in the care and treatment of patients with brain cancer.”

The other Newcastle-based recipient was Professor Hubert Hondermarck.

That grant will go towards targeting ER stress-induced neurotropism as a therapy in glioblastoma.

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