Dr McDonald, the Head of UNSW’s Cure Brain Cancer Foundation Laboratory, is leading Australia’s only research into lower grade brain tumours in young adults.
“There is currently no standard treatment available for these patients,” says Dr McDonald, who is based in UNSW’s Lowy Cancer Research Centre. “It’s more than likely the tumour will progress into a high grade tumour, which has a high death rate.”
“More research is desperately needed for these patients to slow down the progress rate of these tumours.”
Dr McDonald is currently involved in an international study of lower grade gliomas (tumours), which involves unravelling their genetic code, as well as an epidemiological study on newly diagnosed glioma patients with Associate Professor Claire Vajdic.
“I’m really optimistic this approach will lead to the identification of new treatments,” says Dr McDonald. “We still don’t know what the cause of a brain tumour is and whether any environmental or genetic factors are involved.”
“Improving outcomes for these patients would have far-reaching implications in the community for patients and their carers, potentially keeping patients employed and functional for longer, and at best, leading to a proportion of patients with long-term survival, or even cure,” she says.
Dr McDonald is also working with UNSW Associate Professor Charlie Teo, on a “biobanking” approach, whereby a patient’s tumour is implanted in a mouse model and tested with novel drugs. This gives real-time responses to the patient’s type of tumour, she says.
Media contact: Susi Hamilton, UNSW Media Office, 0422 934 024