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AIM BRAIN trial could potentially save lives

Photo: Brain cancer trial to improve treatment
Researchers say a fast-tracked clinical trial of childhood brain cancer will improve treatment and potentially save lives.

A "groundbreaking" clinical trial experts believe will transform the way childhood brain cancer is treated has been fast-tracked in Australia.

Researchers at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne will from October start recruiting for the AIM BRAIN trial, that will give children with brain tumours access to a new novel genetic testing technique known as molecular profiling.

The trial, announced by Health Minister Greg Hunt on Thursday, will be funded as part of the $79 million committed to cancer research in the federal budget.

Oncologist Dr Jordan Hansford, trial head, says this technology will lead to earlier diagnosis and tailored treatment that could have a significant and immediate impact on survival
"That's why we feel this project is of utmost importance," Dr Hansford told AAP.

Brain cancer is a complex disease because it has many subtypes.

For this reason it is frustratingly hard to treat, and explains the very poor survival rates, explained Dr Hansford.

He says molecular profiling detects the subtle differences between the subtypes of brain tumours that traditional microscopic lab work does not.

The technique examines the way a tumour is behaving at a molecular level to reveal genetic characteristics and any unique biomarkers.

"If you don't have that information you are going to be lumping patients in clinical trials where they will either be over-treated or under-treated depending on the tumour class they have," Dr Hansford said.

It is estimated that 94 children will be diagnosed with brain cancer in Australia this year.

Dr Helen Zorbas, Cancer Australia CEO, says the trial will provide the opportunity for each of these children to have the advantage of this advanced technology.

"The AIM trial allows us to get a much more sophisticated understanding, a more accurate diagnosis and in that way we can better target the treatment and tailor it for the best possible outcomes for each child with brain cancer," she said.

"Getting that diagnosis right is critically important to informing patient care."

The trial announcement was made ahead of a roundtable meeting on brain cancer between Mr Hunt and international oncologists in Melbourne.

The meeting was being held to map out a plan for future brain cancer research, which has so far "failed" sufferers.

It follows years of campaigning by charities and advocacy groups for a greater focus on the deadly disease.

Brain cancer survival stands at a low 20 per cent. Cure Brain Cancer Foundation CEO Michelle Stewart says their aim is to improve survival to 50 per cent by 2023.

Ms Stewart says Thursday's discussions with Mr Hunt marked an important first step to achieving that.

"We have worked long and hard for this moment, designing a research strategy to accelerate new, effective treatments to patients increasing awareness and advocating to government and key opinion leaders, both in Australia and overseas," Ms Stewart said.


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