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10th February 2023 Childhood Cancer

New treatment now available for children's brain cancer

Brain cancer surgeon

Children suffering from a fatal paediatric brain cancer are being given renewed hope as a new treatment becomes available for the first time in Australia, thanks to research proudly supported by The Hospital Research Foundation Group and our generous donors!

For the first time in Australia, treatment will use genetically modified white blood cells (known as CAR-T cells) to target children with the rare brain cancer Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG).

How does CAR T-cell therapy work?

CAR T cell therapy


The research has been led by the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) in partnership with Sydney Children’s Hospital (SCH), University of South Australia (UniSA), SA Pathology and with funding support from The Hospital Research Foundation Group and the NeuroSurgical Research Foundation.

After many years of research, it has now led to a collaborative clinical trial for DIPG!

DIPG is the most aggressive of all childhood cancers and one of the only cancers that lacks effective treatment. The fast-growing and incurable tumour forms in the part of a child’s brain responsible for vital functions like breathing, sleeping, bladder control and balance.

On average, 20 Australian children are diagnosed with DIPG each year. Sadly, most will die from the disease within 12 months of diagnosis.

During the past four years, researchers at the RAH and UniSA’s Centre for Cancer Biology, led by Professor Michael Brown (pictured top), have been investigating this new cell therapy to treat aggressive brain cancers.

CAR-T cells are super-powered immune cells that act as a living drug. When given to the patient they can find and attack cancer cells without harming healthy cells.

The Sydney Children’s Hospital will send the children’s immune cells to South Australia where they will be modified and taught to target and attack the tumour. The cells will then be sent back to SCH where they will be infused into the patient to scan and destroy harmful cancer cells.

The trial is open to all children across Australia and families should direct enquiries to the SCH.

“We have been working on this treatment for the past four years so I am incredibly proud that these young patients will finally benefit from our innovative work here at the Royal Adelaide Hospital,” Prof Brown said.

“Each patient’s cells will be transported here to South Australia where we’ll genetically modify them so that when given to back to the patient they will track down and destroy their cancer cells, leaving the healthy cells intact.”

ResearcherResearch fellow Dr Tessa Gargett (pictured here) from the Centre for Cancer Biology said recent funding from THRF Group provided important bridging funding to help the team get over the last hurdle to clinical trials.

“We are delighted that this work has led to a clinical trial for kids suffering from such a terrible disease and we’re hopeful we can help as many children and their families as possible,” Dr Gargett said.

“I am particularly proud that the complex manufacturing of this new kind of personalised treatment will be done right here in South Australia.”