Local researcher 'lights up' brain tumours thanks to grant

Posted 27 Apr 2016.

A Jandakot cancer researcher is the recipient of a $3000 James Crofts Hope Student Vacation Research Scholarship administered by Cancer Council WA.

Clare Tancabel, a second-year medical student at the University of Western Australia, is researching a new method of removing deadly brain cancers involving a combination of fluorescence - where tumours are ‘lit up' using fluorescent dyes - and needle probes.

"Our project is centred on making brain tumours ‘glow' so that a surgeon can more accurately remove it," Ms Tancabel said.

"Our international collaborators have developed a way of figuring out how tissue responds to and affects light and we are working with them to build on these algorithms so that we can eventually accurately measure the glowing tumour light using needle probes in the operating theatre. This will allow surgeons to check that they have cut out the entire tumour.

"It can also help surgeons and pathologists to classify tumours on the spot which is useful because treatments vary according to tumour type."

Ms Tancabel said brain cancer removal is particularly difficult and risks permanent damage to a patient's brain, potentially affecting their quality of life.

"Removing the brain cancer has been likened to removing a spider-shaped object from a bowl of jelly without damaging the jelly," she said.

"Many brain cancers grow tendrils, or arms, and grow into other areas of the brain as they spread. The brain itself is very soft and delicate and deficits arising damaging the brain in removing cancer can have enormous effects on the way a patients will go on to live their life."

More than 1600 Australians are diagnosed with brain cancer each year with about 200 of them from Western Australia.

Grade 4 brain tumours, such as glioblastomas, are highly aggressive and have a survival rate of only 10% at five years.

Ms Tancabel said the grant has given her the opportunity to grow her knowledge and progress valuable research locally.

"The grant has allowed me to spend almost two months fully immersed in cancer control work," she said.

"Because of Cancer Council WA, I was able to help take the development of the fluorescence needle probe forward to the next stages and I was able to learn an incredible amount about biomedical devices and technology."

The grant is part of a $4 million dollar spend on research this year by Cancer Council WA.

Cancer Council WA, a community funded organisation, is one of the largest funders of cancer research in the State through a peer reviewed grants scheme.

Found in:  News - 2016 | View all news