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New collaboration may lead to promising treatments for fatal brain cancer

Glioblastoma is the most common and the most lethal type of brain cancer - and at the moment, there is no cure for it.

But that may change as two of Western Australia's leading medical researchers take on a cancer whose victims usually only survive a few months after diagnosis.

The University of Western Australia's Professor Anna Nowak recently joined UWA's Assistant Professor Foteini Hassiotou to investigate new treatments for glioblastoma patients.

Professor Anna Nowak leads the neuro-oncology service at Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital where she sees many patients with aggressive brain tumours such as glioblastoma.  She also works in UWA's School of Pharmacology and Medicine to determine the causes of and find new treatments for these cancers.

Assistant Professor Foteini Hassiotou, of UWA's School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, uses molecular tools to give insight into what goes wrong in a patient's body just before cancer strikes.  Her research is focused on cancer stem cells, which are thought to be at the root of malignant transformation leading to cancer.

Cancer stem cells are known to be resistant to chemotherapy, although the molecular bases for this are yet poorly understood. Therefore, a better understanding of the effects of current clinical treatments on cancer stem cells is needed prior to improving current treatments and developing new ones.  This is the aim of the new collaboration between Professor Nowak and Assistant Professor Hassiotou.

The two researchers have already attracted students interested in contributing to this very worthwhile study.  In addition, Dr Melanie Jackson, a radiation oncologist, has secured a Clinician Fellowship from the WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network to contribute to this project at UWA.  The Brain Tumour Association of Western Australia has also generously provided a donation towards this study.

"Glioblastoma and some of its most aggressive variants, such as gliosarcoma, are devastating and extremely difficult to treat," Assistant Professor Hassiotou said.  "A better understanding of the disease and exploration of new promising treatments are so much needed.

"This collaboration promises to provide new answers that have the potential lead to a better future for these patients and their families."

Media references

Assistant Professor Foteini Hassiotou (UWA Hartmann Human Lactation Research Group, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry)  (+61 8) 6488 4467

David Stacey (UWA Public Affairs)  (+61 8
6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716

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