Our research

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.

Laboratory Heads

The Brain Cancer Centre is exploring new ways of making breakthroughs. Our Laboratory Heads, cancer biologist Dr Sarah Best, bioinformatician Dr Saskia Freytag and medical oncologist and clinician-scientist Dr Jim Whittle are leading a new multi-disciplinary laboratory that will complement our existing ambitious research program.

Image of Dr Sarah Best

Dr Sarah Best

Sarah is a cancer biologist with a strong focus on genetics and the development of personalised therapeutic strategies. Sarah’s research experience has spanned the breast, skin and lung, where she has made major advances in the understanding of tumour development, progression and biomarkers of disease. For her research investigating the metabolite biomarkers of lung cancer, Sarah was awarded the Research Australia Discovery Award in 2018.

Sarah’s research focus leverages fundamental biology, metabolic properties and the immune microenvironment to develop a deeper understanding of cancer.

Image of Dr Jim Whittle

Dr Jim Whittle

Jim is a medical oncologist specialising in neuro-oncology at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. He completed his PhD at WEHI and was awarded the Professor Lynn Corcoran PhD Prize for his research understanding the molecular mechanisms responsible for resistance to cell death in breast cancer. This work has provided the foundation for testing novel compounds in early phase clinical trials.

In 2020, Jim commenced working remotely with the Ligon laboratory, Dana Faber Cancer Institute, with a focus on uncovering resistance mechanisms in glioma. In addition to making scientific discoveries, Jim is passionate about improving supportive care for brain cancer patients and their carers.

Image of Dr Saskia Freytag

Dr Saskia Freytag

Saskia is a bioinformatician focusing on the development and application of innovative approaches and technologies to advance our understanding of the brain in health and disease. Saskia has been instrumental in the discovery of pathogenic variants for several neurological diseases. For her innovative research approach, she was awarded the Harry Perkins Aspire Award in 2020.

Additionally, Saskia in her role as an Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) ChooseMaths ambassador passionately advocates for STEM education and actively encourages girls to pursue higher education in mathematics.

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

Phase 0 Clinical Trials in Brain Cancer

Through this program, brain cancer patients will have the opportunity to participate in highly innovative clinical trials of novel therapies.

Champions

  • Professor Mark Rosenthal – Director of Parkville Cancer Clinical Trials Unit, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • Professor Kate Drummond – Director of Neurosurgery, The Royal Melbourne Hospital
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.

Champions

  • Professor Kate Drummond – Director of Neurosurgery, The Royal Melbourne Hospital
  • Professor Peter Gibbs – Head of Personalised Oncology Division, 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.

Champions

  • 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.

Champions

  • 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.

Champions

  • 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.

Champions

  • 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-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.

Champions

  • 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

Collaborators

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