Close up of researcher working with samples in a lab

Research projects

Tackling tough-to-treat brain cancers with new targeted treatments

Dr Lee Wong
Project period
May 2023 - April 2025
Research Institute
Monash University
Cancer types
Brain cancer
Award amount

Project aim

Dr Wong and her team are studying the effect of a new targeted drug on brain cancers with specific mutations that make them vulnerable to treatment, including paediatric glioblastoma.

Hope for the future

Despite improvements in survival for many cancers in the last 20 years, outcomes remain poor for patients with primary brain cancer (where a brain tumour is the initial site of the cancer). This means we urgently need new ways to improve survival for these patients and increase their quality of life. Dr Wong hopes to make a difference through collaboration with her team and other researchers.

Previous funding by our Curestarters allowed Dr Wong and her team to reveal how certain mutations to DNA play a part in some brain cancers. Her new project now hopes to understand how a type of drug, called a ‘RNA Pol I inhibitor’, could be used to treat primary brain cancers with those mutations. The collaborative approach Dr Wong is taking could quickly lead to better patient outcomes for the hardest to treat brain cancers.


lab experiment

Meet the scientist

When not in the lab, Dr Lee Wong is a keen traveller.  She also enjoys watching documentaries on house design and taking plenty of walks.

The science

Brain cancer survival rates have largely remained unchanged for the last 30 years. In particular, paediatric glioblastoma still has an average survival of only 1.5 years after diagnosis. This type of brain cancer is particularly challenging because the tumour cells spread out in the brain in a way that makes it hard to remove with surgery.

Dr Wong and colleagues have found that some brain cancers with specific mutations, including paediatric glioblastoma and another type diagnosed in adults called log-grade glioma, could be vulnerable to a new targeted drug they are testing. This drug has been designed to cross the blood brain barrier, which often blocks many other drugs attempting to reach the brain.

The researchers hope to learn more about how well their targeted drug works by using brain cancer cells donated by patients, used to make up ‘organoids’, mini tumours that can be useful for scientific research in the lab. Uncovering how these new drugs act in brain tumours will be an important step towards finding a cure in the future.

This project is 50% co-funded with Cancer Australia.

Dr Lee Wong
While biomedical research improves cancer survival rates for many, brain cancer patients continue to face minimal progress. Our aim is to assist drug development and treatment strategies by providing knowledge about the fundamental processes leading to the development of brain cancers.

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