Pippa plays a role in childhood brain cancer research trial Childhood cancer research link

Funds raised in memory of Warrnambool’s Pippa Rea will contribute to a new childhood international brain cancer research project.

The project, which was announced on Thursday, could help to improve childhood brain cancer survival rates.

Pippa Rea and Robert Connor Dawes Foundation director Liz Dawes.

Pippa Rea and Robert Connor Dawes Foundation director Liz Dawes.

Health minister Greg Hunt, announced the Access to Innovative Molecular profiling for brain cancers (AIM BRAIN) trial at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH). 

Pippa was 11-years-old when she died from Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, an incurable brainstem tumour in 2015. Her family donated the tumor to the RCH’s tumour tissue bank.

Since then the south-west community has donated funds to the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation (RCD Foundation), a charity which supports pediatric brain tumour matters in the areas of research, care and development, have donated funds in Pippa’s name.

Money donated funds the storage and distribution of tissue samples which are used for research. 

AIM BRAIN is funded by the federal government through Cancer Australia and the RCD Foundation. Oncologist Jordan Hansford, who treated Pippa, is the lead investigator in the project. 

RCD Foundation director Liz Dawes said donating in Pippa’s name was a genuine way to make a difference and thanked the public.

“The only ways we’re going to make breakthroughs in research is to use the samples and find out what’s going to work to have them to not be fatal,” Mrs Dawes said.

Pippa’s mum Virginia Rea said the final piece of the project fell into place when the tissue bank contacted her for funds for the AIM BRAIN Project.

“It made me feel that I could do my small part in Pippa’s name, honour and memory. It completed the circle between (oncologist) Jordan Hansford, Pippa and the RCD Foundation,” Ms Rea said.

She said pediatric brain cancer was complex and vastly unknown. “The survival rates are the lowest of any cancer and brain cancer kills more children than any other disease”.

Cancer Australia chief Helen Zorbas said establishing AIM BRAIN in Australia would build expertise and establish technology in Australia to enable diagnostic molecular profiling of children with brain cancer. 

“Molecular profiling gives us a more sophisticated and accurate understanding of cancer including the characteristics of brain subtypes, mechanisms which may drive tumour growth and reasons for variations in drug responsiveness,” Dr Zorbas said. 

“This will refine the diagnosis of the tumour and ensure treatment is tailored for the best possible outcomes for each child with brain cancer.” It is estimated that 94 children will be diagnosed with brain cancer in Australia in 2017. 

Brain cancer is the leading cause of total cancer burden in children under 15 years in Australia. 

“This ground-breaking new trial will build capacity in Australia to contribute to collaborative international efforts, accelerate Australia’s capability to undertake molecular diagnostic testing for paediatric cancers and ensure that Australia remains at the forefront of breakthrough initiatives,” Dr Zorbas said. 

“This partnership between government and philanthropic funding will deliver technology to benefit children with brain cancer in Australia,” Dr Zorbas said.