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UniSA Develops First-iIn-Human Trial for Aggressive Brain Tumours

A novel technology designed to precisely image aggressive brain cancers and guide treatment is being developed by the University of South Australia and an Australian cancer diagnostic company potentially helping thousands of people who are diagnosed with the deadly condition each year. The new MRI nanotechnology targets a specific marker that is found in more than 90% of solid tumours, including high-grade brain cancers.

Already yielding promising preclinical results in a prostate cancer model, the new MRI technology has the potential to have a significant impact on aggressive brain cancers. The new funding will progress the technology towards a first-in-human trial.

UniSA’s Dr Nicole Dmochowska will lead the research, supported by a REDI Fellowship, announced recently. Dr Dmochowska says there is a critical need for better imaging of high-grade brain tumours. She noted that the prognosis for high-grade brain tumours such as glioblastoma remains abysmal, so new technologies that can potentially enable more precise targeting of tumours must be progressed.

The REDI Fellowship program provides financial support to companies in the medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals (MTP) sector to bring researchers, clinicians and MTP professionals in-house for up to twelve months to work on priority medical research projects.

This research will advance a cutting-edge imaging technology developed in collaboration with the partnering company and with the support of the NeuroSurgical Research Foundation designed to more accurately image and, therefore, treat brain tumours with no additional neurotoxicity.

Dr Hien Le, a radiation oncologist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and one of the Chief Investigators in the seed funding for this work, says the research has the potential to advance cancer treatments. “As someone who specialises in the management of brain cancer, I understand the importance of accurate tumour delineation.”

It was noted that better imaging means the tumour target can be more confidently defined, precise treatment delivery can be facilitated, whilst damage to normal healthy tissues can be minimised. In 2021, there were 1896 new diagnoses of brain cancer (1191 males and 725 females). Glioblastoma is the most common brain malignancy with a five-year survival rate of only 5%.

The R&D Manager at the company stated that the research will streamline preclinical validations for the technology for brain tumours, in preparation for a phase 1 ‘first-in-human’ clinical trial. She noted that the company is determined to transform the precision of cancer imaging, surgery and therapy to ensure that everyone diagnosed with cancer is given the best possible care.

The new technology builds on the firm’s cancer staging technology FerroTrace currently undergoing clinical trials in several cancer types. By bringing together the best minds in chemistry, bioengineering and oncology, the firm is continuing to push the boundaries to help make sure no one dies unnecessarily because the cancer was missed.

The global cancer diagnostics market size was valued at us$ 168 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach us$ 280 billion by 2028, registering a CAGR of 6.9% from 2021 to 2028. Cancer diagnostics is a method of identifying different biomarkers, proteins, and some signs that lead to the identification of the presence of a cancerous tumour.

Efficient diagnostic testing is used to validate or rule out the existence of illness, monitor the progression of the disease, and schedule and review treatment outcomes. Diagnostic procedures for cancer may include imaging, tumour biopsy, laboratory tests (including tests for tumour markers), endoscopic examination, surgery or genetic testing.

Nationwide lockdown, government regulations, and continuous increase in infection rates across countries created a widespread financial impact on neurology hospitals and clinics.

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