Breakthrough discovery in brain cancer research

There’s a terrible yet painfully honest phrase that gets thrown around in medical discussions sometimes, following a cancer diagnosis: “If you’re going to get cancer, then that’s the best one to get.”

It’s offered as words of encouragement when someone has been dealt the blow of a life-altering diagnosis.

But as there is a flip side to every coin, there are also some cancers that are at the other end of the scale.


Glioblastoma is one of them.

Around one thousand Australians are diagnosed with glioblastoma each year. Even with treatment, the prognosis for glioblastoma patients is very bleak, with only half of patients surviving for 15 months, and less than 5% of patients still alive five years after diagnosis.

Which makes the latest news out of the University of Findlay all the more exciting.

Glioblastoma is incredibly difficult to treat because complete surgical removal is almost impossible, and because many drugs cannot efficiently pass through the “blood-brain barrier”, from the bloodstream into the brain.

However, students at the University of Findlay have recently discovered a string of chemical compounds that are testing well in killing these cancer cells, without destroying the nearby healthy cells.

The compound, dubbed RK15, is showing to be 100 times more selective when going after cancer cells, whilst ignoring healthy brain tissue.

That said, the research is still in its infancy, with years worth of study remaining to determine the drug’s efficacy and develop a chemical compound that could be used clinically.

It’s progress. These types of breakthroughs are essential in the fight against cancer, which is something TV personality Carrie Bickmore is passionate about through her charity, Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer Foundation. The cause has so far raised over $11m, and while Carrie says this is “only a drop in the ocean when it comes to the amount of funding needed for brain cancer research, it’s a huge step in the right direction”.

“We need to increase survival rates,” Carrie says, “and the only way to achieve this is through vital research.”

Associate professor Rahul Khupse, Ph.D and his team at the University of Findlay will test the RK15 compound in animal studies over the next year.

If successful, this kind of medication could remove the need for risky surgical procedures and give hope to patients diagnosed with glioblastoma.

While progress is slow, at least, as Carrie says, it’s a step in the right direction.