College students raise funds for glioblastoma research

From left: Dr Tinte Itinteang, Olivia Watson, Phoebe Ellis, Dr Agadha Wickremesekera, Dr Paul Davis

Staff at the GMRI received a special visit this month from Queen Margaret College student Phoebe Ellis, who has raised close to $1000 towards the GMRI’s glioblastoma (GB) research programme.

Phoebe said that the issue was very close to her heart, having recently lost her father to GB, and that the research on GB happening at the GMRI means a lot to her and her mother.

“I first heard about the GMRI and the work they are doing on GB through Dad’s neurosurgeon Dr Agadha Wickremesekera, who is also a Research Associate at the GMRI,” said Phoebe.

“I knew that the current treatment for GB had been around for years, despite being ineffective and only making a difference to a few people’s prognoses. I wanted to find out what was being done about this, and after hearing about the GMRI through Dr Wickremesekera I thought I would look into what is happening there.

“It was then that I realised the amazing research that is being done to find a cause and treatment for cancers, particularly GB. I want people with GB to know that help is on the way and something is being done to find the cause and cure, and that someone cares,” Phoebe said.

Each year Phoebe’s school, Queen Margaret College, celebrates brain week and fundraises for a brain foundation.

Phoebe said with the enthusiastic support from the head of senior school and head prefects, the students decided they would raise funds for the GMRI by selling hot chips one lunchtime.

“When I spoke at assembly to tell the school about the fundraiser, the rest of year 13 were eager to help and all offered to bake as well. I was overwhelmed by the support from my year group and all the students that came to buy the food. All of the girls worked hard, with an amazing result, just in one lunchtime,” Phoebe said.

Phoebe and her school friend Olivia Watson then visited the GMRI to present the cheque.

“We were blown away when Dr Tinte Itinteang, Dr Agadha Wickremesekera and Dr Paul Davis took time out of their day to give us such an incredible insight into their GB research and an extensive tour around the labs. Soon after I returned with my mum to show her just how amazing it was. We were warmed by the compassion and generosity of the special people that work there, especially Dr Itinteang, Dr Wickremesekera, Dr Davis and Cindy Naresh,” said Phoebe.

GMRI Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Itinteang, said it was an honour to receive the generous donation from Phoebe and her school friends.

“GB is a very complex cancer to treat and is the most aggressive primary cancer of the brain, with a median survival of about 25 months following intensive treatment. While conventional therapies such as surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy can ease the patient’s symptoms, they are highly invasive and the life expectancy of GB patients remains very short.”

“Because of this, the GMRI has chosen to prioritise cancer stem cell research into GB,” said Dr Itinteang.

“The goal of our research is to develop widely available, less invasive and more effective treatment that allows patients with GB and other cancers to lead longer lives with improved quality.

“And as a not-for-profit research institute, it’s the donations from people like Phoebe and her school that will help make this a reality,” said Dr Itinteang.