An antibody developed by scientists at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI) to treat the most aggressive form of brain cancer will be further refined following a generous grant from Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer Foundation.

The grant, from the foundation established by television presenter Carrie Bickmore in honour of her first husband, who died from brain cancer, will support the work of Prof Andrew Scott and A/Prof Hui Gan.

Prof Scott and A/Prof Gan led the development of ABT-806, a unique antibody that targets glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and most aggressive form of adult brain cancer. Fewer than 10 per cent of people diagnosed with GBM are still alive five years after their diagnosis.

ABT-806 has since been combined with extremely potent cytotoxic drugs so these drugs can be delivered directly into brain tumour cells, A/Prof Gan said. “This antibody drug conjugate, called ABT-414, has been trialled on patients with GBM and shown remarkable results,” he said. “However, it does not work in all patients. With support from Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer Foundation we are working on the second generation of these antibody-drug conjugates to improve their effectiveness and reduce side effects for people with GBM and other high-grade brain cancers.”

ABT-414 is currently in phase 3 clinical trials, the last step before being introduced as standard clinical care should the trials be successful. A/Prof Gan is leading the trials at Austin Health in Melbourne.

A/Prof Gan said the two years of funding from Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer Foundation would not only allow the further development of ABT-414, but would also support research aimed at knocking out the network of cells that exist around brain tumours and that seem to support the development of the cancer.

“We are also developing antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates that target this tumour micro-environment, and have shown in the laboratory that it causes severe disruption to the tumour’s cellular support network,” A/Prof Gan said. “Targeting the tumour microenvironment in this way is an innovative approach to glioblastoma treatment that will may lead to improved outcomes Later this year we will begin recruiting patients with GBM for a clinical trial of an antibody targeting the tumour microenvironment at Austin Health in Melbourne and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in Brisbane.”