Cure Brain Cancer Foundation makes contribution to UNSW research

Cure Brain Cancer Foundation has announced $1.5 million in funding over the next five years to support UNSW’s research into personalised medicine to treat brain cancer.

This will support Associate Professor Kerrie McDonald, the Cure Brain Cancer Head of Biomarker and Translational Research and her research group. McDonald’s group is personalising drug therapies for patients to complement their current treatment, thereby aiming to give patients the best possible chance for long-term survival.

Cure Brain Cancer Foundation has supported UNSW’s neuro-oncology research since 2009. This new support will help UNSW take this promising research to the next level.

"Cure Brain Cancer's mission is to increase survival for brain cancer patients and we believe Associate Professor McDonald's work plays a crucial role in moving us towards our mission,” says Michelle Stewart, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation’s Head of Research Strategy.  

“Kerrie uses cutting-edge laboratory techniques to compress the time that it takes for new treatments to reach the clinic and we see this as a key acceleration activity so that patients can benefit faster."

McDonald’s team liaises closely with neurosurgeons, and at the time of a patient’s operation brings surgically-removed brain tumours back to the laboratory. Then the researchers break the tumour down to its single cellular form and inject it into the brain of a mouse. 

“This ‘avatar’ mouse is the centre of our drug trials in the lab,” says McDonald.   “Old and new drugs, as well as novel drug combinations, can then be tested in these mice.  New treatments can be tested over months instead of over years, as it would take in humans.”

McDonald emphasises that it is not just a matter of randomly testing a number of drugs on the mice and hoping one will work. “We look minutely at the genetic makeup of each individual tumour and from that, select the most appropriate and optimal treatment,” she says.

Once her team finds the most effective treatments to shrink the human tumour in the avatar mice, they then pass on their findings to the treating clinicians.

With this new funding from Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, McDonald’s goal is to expand the number of patients they assist. Improving outcomes for these patients will have far-reaching implications in the community for both the patients and their carers; potentially keeping patients alive with an improved quality of life for longer.

Cure Brain Cancer Foundation was established in 2001 by Professor Charlie Teo, and is Australia’s largest funder of brain cancer research. For further information, please see:

For more information about this story, or other news from UNSW Medicine, please contact Trish O’Brien via:

Email: trish.obrien[at][dot]au

Phone: 9385 1738




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