Revolutionising treatment for brain lymphoma

Wednesday 16 June 2021

Almost all of us in Queensland will be affected by cancer at some point in our lives – whether we have the disease ourselves, or someone we love is diagnosed with it.

At Mater, clinicians and researchers are working together to transform the way we diagnose, treat and support people with cancer.

Our patients receive cutting edge treatments, world-class medical advice and – should they need it – expert palliative care at Mater’s state-of-the-art Cancer Care Centres. Mater has its own world-class research institute—Mater Research— where researchers are searching for better ways to diagnose and treat life-threatening diseases like cancer.

At Mater, we know that research is the single greatest tool we have in the fight against cancer. That fight begins in the lab with research that’s helping us understand why cancer occurs and how we can find it earlier.

Our researchers are working on new cancer therapies and ways to make treatment safer, with fewer side effects. Many cancers respond to treatment, and more targeted treatments are being developed every year. There are however, still subsets of cancers that respond poorly, or do not respond at all.

Finding solutions is a global public health challenge and Mater is a recognised leader in this global effort.

Hope for people with rare cancers

A dual precision therapy developed by Mater researcher, Haematologist and Executive Director of Mater Research, Professor Maher Gandhi, is expected to revolutionise the care given to those diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma in immunocompromised people, referred to as EBV-associated brain lymphoma.

“I remember when I was a trainee doctor, seeing patients like this, there was always a lot of interest because the disease is quite rare. It was alongside a lot of disappointment, too, because it was so hard to treat. While this breakthrough is a promising step in the right direction it is important to understand this treatment is still far from being available to the general public as all therapies must follow due process of testing and approvals. We are leading a national clinical trial to confirm our initial results.”

Professor Maher Gandhi is exploring the potential of harnessing the immune system to treat rare forms of blood cancer.

EBV-associated brain lymphoma is a rare and deadly cancer with an overall survival of only ten months. Maher is leading a world first clinical trial to improve treatment for relapsed lymphoma patients.

Once identified, patients’ T-cells (the killers of the immune system) are extracted then engineered to identify and attack a specific protein on tumour cells. The T-cells are then ‘cloned’ until there are hundreds of millions of cells, then inserted back into the patient. It is like giving the patient a ‘living drug’ that can recognise and kill their cancer.

Maher and his dedicated team are driving innovative research that pushes Australia’s potential beyond existing knowledge and boundaries, to revolutionise health outcomes around the world.