Our research

World-first brain cancer clinical trials launched in Melbourne

A world-first clinical trial platform launching in Melbourne is set to transform research into new therapies for brain cancer and deliver more targeted, personalised treatment for patients.
The Brain-POP (brain perioperative) clinical trial platform will enable doctors to precisely see the effect of a new drug therapy on a patient’s brain cancer for the first time, by comparing tumour samples before and after treatment.
The new platform is led by The Brain Cancer Centre and research partners WEHI, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, The Royal Children’s Hospital and the University of Melbourne, with $16 million in funding support from the Victorian Government.

Establishing a world-class centre of excellence in brain cancer research.

Leveraging phenomenal talent, infrastructure and experience, The Brain Cancer Centre has committed funding to enable highly impactful research projects.

This is just the beginning.

Meet our Researchers

Associate Professor Misty Jenkins

Professor Mark Rosenthal

Dr Heidi McAlpine

Laboratory Heads – Dr Sarah Best, Dr Jim Whittle & Dr Saskia Freytag

Professor Kate Drummond

Dr Lucy Gately

Collaborative brain cancer research awarded $4.6m grant

Groundbreaking research to deliver new treatment options for patients with the most common and deadliest type of brain cancer has been supported through $4.6m from the MRFF.
The collaborative “GLIMMER” research program aims to improve survival outcomes and quality of life for patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer with a five-year survival rate of just 5%.
Publications and Papers

Publishing research papers is the way in which incredibly talented researchers share knowledge and discoveries with the world that takes their chosen field forward.

The Brain Cancer Centre’s collaborative research approach brings together the brightest minds to make game changing discoveries to improve the lives of brain cancer patients.

Here are the recent publications from our Brain Cancer Centre members – helping us to achieve our vision: That one day no lives will be lost to brain cancer.

The Brain Cancer Centre is supporting these exciting new research programs.

BRAIN Registry

The BRAIN Registry will underpin innovative new clinical trials and research towards earlier diagnosis, identification of new treatments and improving outcomes for brain cancer patients.


  • Professor Kate Drummond – Director of Neurosurgery, The Royal Melbourne Hospital
  • Professor Peter Gibbs – Head of Personalised Oncology Division, WEHI
  • Dr Lucy Gately – Medical Oncologist, Alfred & Cabrini Hospitals and Clinician Researcher, WEHI
New approaches to immunotherapy

We are harnessing the immune system to develop effective brain cancer immunotherapies. Centre researchers will use cutting-edge technology to further develop and better apply immunotherapy to brain cancers, to improve treatment options for patients.


  • Associate Professor Misty Jenkins – Laboratory Head, WEHI
  • Dr Jordan Hansford – Neuro-oncology specialist, The Royal Children’s Hospital
  • Associate Professor Matt Call and Dr Melissa Call – structural biologists, WEHI
New brain cancer models

Organoids are 3D replicas of tissues, in this case brain cancers, that can be studied in the lab. They will be used to test and discover new therapies for brain cancer patients, accelerating identification of new targeted drugs and the best drug combinations for each individual brain cancer patient.


  • Professor Tony Burgess – Laboratory Head, WEHI
  • Associate Professor Oliver Sieber – Laboratory Head, WEHI
  • Professor Peter Gibbs – Head of Personalised Oncology Division, WEHI
Pathways to new brain cancer medicines

This program will study cell death pathways as targets for new brain cancer therapies, including investigating the potential of a new class of potent anti-cancer drugs in brain cancer.


  • Professor Andreas Strasser – Head of Blood Cells and Blood Cancers Division, WEHI
  • Professor Anne Voss – Head of Epigenetics and Development Division, WEHI
Overcoming the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB)

The blood-brain barrier is a protective layer that protects the brain from toxins and infection, but also prevents many cancer therapies from being able to directly target brain cancers.

In this program, we will apply cutting-edge screening technologies and biology expertise to enable a more efficient translation of ground-breaking research into effective medicines.


  • Professor Guillaume Lessene – Theme Leader, WEHI
  • Professor Ben Hogan – Group Leader, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • Associate Professor Joseph Nicolazzo – Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University
  • Dr Kym Lowes – Head of Screening, National Drug Discovery Centre, WEHI

Brain-POP (brain perioperative clinical trial program) is a unique program for children, adolescents and adults with primary brain cancers or brain metastases (secondary tumours).

It will:

  • provide hope and ultimately benefit to patients and their families
  • refine the approach to treating patients at diagnosis and recurrence, capitalising on new knowledge to improve treatment outcomes
  • unify diverse approaches and a range of clinical trials into a cohesive program
  • act as a magnet for biopharmaceutical companies nationally and internationally.


  • Professor Mark Rosenthal – Director of Parkville Cancer Clinical Trials Unit, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • Professor Kate Drummond – Director of Neurosurgery, The Royal Melbourne Hospital
  • Dr Jim Whittle – Laboratory Head, WEHI
  • Dr Jordan Hansford – Neuro-oncology specialist, The Royal Children’s Hospital
  • Associate Professor Jayesh Desai – Associate Director for Clinical Research, Head, Early Drug Development, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • Dr Claire Phillips MBBS, FRANZCR – Acting Director Radiation Oncology at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Developing and characterising unique paediatric brain cancer models to expedite clinical translation

By understanding how the paediatric brain microenvironment influences medulloblastoma growth compared to the adult brain, we will uncover new vulnerabilities that can be exploited to improve treatment effectiveness. This will build new tools for paediatric brain cancer research and generate age-appropriate models of other brain cancer types (including DIPG, with CI Dun and AT/RT with CI Cain).

Leveraging combined expertise in immunology, metabolomics, cancer biology, cancer genetics and oncology, this project will develop pre-clinical models and uncover unique age-specific distinctions to identify new treatments.


  • Associate Professor Raelene Endersby, Co-Head, Brain Tumour Research, Telethon Kids Institute
  • Professor Nick Gottardo Co-Head, Brain Tumour Research, Telethon Kids Institute
A novel liquid biopsy for monitoring and chemoresistance detection in brain cancer

Glioma has severely lagged behind other cancers with availability of targeted drug therapies, due to its marked genomic heterogeneity and the difficulty of obtaining comprehensive tissue biopsy for genomic analysis and research. “Liquid biopsy” of plasma circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) is a non-invasive way to obtain holistic genetic information about cancer progression without requiring surgery, however, ctDNA has proven difficult to sensitively detect in plasma from glioma patients, until now.

This will directly translate into a clinical trial that will ultimately result in a hugely positive impact on the quality of life of brain cancer patients, reducing necessity for repeat surgical biopsies and assisting in effective personalised & targeted therapies.


  • Associate Professor Andrew Morokoff – Neurosurgeon, The Royal Melbourne Hospital & University of Melbourne
  • Professor Kate Drummond – Director of Neurosurgery, The Royal Melbourne Hospital
  • Dr Jordan Jones – Neurosurgery Registrar, The Royal Melbourne Hospital
Dangerous networking: Brain cancers and the brain

Brain Cancer is unique in that it is formed in the brain, an electrically active network. Decoding the electrical activity and networking of brain cancer cells is central to our understanding of this complex and devastating condition.  

This project looks at discovering the secrets of the electrical activity of brain cancer cells, and how those cancer cells integrate within neural networks in living human tissue. The aim is to manipulate brain activity to understand what impact this has on the growth and spread of these cancers. In doing so, we hope to unveil a whole new category of therapeutic targets that address the electrical communication between neurons and cancer cells within the brain, which we believe is at the heart of the resistance of brain cancers to typical cancer therapies.  

To our knowledge, there are no other groups pursuing this highly specialised area, which requires expertise in the functioning of normal neurons, and thus we are at the forefront of this new and important arm of brain cancer research. 


  • Professor Lucy Palmer – Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health, The University of Melbourne
  • Dr Heidi McAlpine – The Royal Melbourne Hospital, University of Melbourne, Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health
  • Professor Kate Drummond – Director of Neurosurgery, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, University of Melbourne
Engineering immune recognition of paediatric brain tumours

Brain tumours, including medulloblastoma and ependymoma are not heavily infiltrated with immune cells both as a result of being in the “immune-privileged” environment of the brain, and their low mutational load and subsequent lack of neo-antigens. 

This project seeks to determine whether the principles of immune recognition for murine glioblastoma also apply to two malignant paediatric brain tumours, medulloblastoma and ependymoma each of which has a distinct cell of origin and genomic profile.


  • Professor Brandon Wainwright, The University of Queensland
  • Professor Melissa Davis, The University of Adelaide
  • Professor Di Yu, The University of Queensland


Help us in our mission to end brain cancer as a terminal illness.