TCRN Travel story | Toni Jue 2017 R1 Conference Grant

21 July 2017
Toni_Jue

Read all about Toni Rose Jue's recent experience attending The 5th Quadrennial Meeting of the World Federation of Neuro-oncology Societies, where she discovered that her work on profoundly enhancing quality of life and survival rates for people with Glioblastoma was well received by her international colleagues as it is unique in the field. 

 

Toni shared that she envisages that her newly formed connections “...will filter down to future collaborations and knowledge that will benefit, not only my laboratory, but the local brain cancer community.”

 

TCRN Conference Grant Recipient Toni Rose Jue

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your research? 

Glioblastoma (GBM), a malignant brain tumour, is a highly devastating disease. The current standard of therapy is surgery, radiotherapy and temozolomide (TMZ) chemotherapy. The median overall survival for GBM is poor at just 15 months, with a 5-year survival rate of less than 5%, demonstrating that it is possibly the most lethal form of all cancers. As such, new treatments are urgently needed. The genomic “blueprint” of every GBM patient is very different from each other, yet currently, all patients are treated in a similar fashion. We need to better match the right patient to the right treatment. My research has been dedicated to identifying new treatment options for patients based upon the genetics of the tumour. Whole genome sequencing provides the “blueprint” of the tumour and allows us to identify gene aberrations, which could be driving tumour growth. I have utilised patient derived cell lines and patient derived xenografts mouse models (patient tumour samples grown within a mouse model) to test the efficacy of new therapies based on variants within the patients’ genome. In a recent study, I showed that combining a PARP inhibitor (involved in impairing DNA repair) with radiotherapy led to improvements in overall survival within a mouse model and this now forms the basis of an ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial.     

 Could you tell us about the conference you went to and why you chose to attend this conference?  

The 5th Quadrennial Meeting of the World Federation of Neuro-oncology Societies is a collaboration between the European, Asian and US Societies of Neuro-Oncology. I thought that attending this conference would allow me to present my current research on a global scale and to meet potential future collaborators, and enable me to identify current trends and putative next generation treatments in the field of neuro-oncology.

 What would be the most important outcomes of the conference for you – key learnings, or people you met, new collaborations, etc.

Personally, it was interesting, but extremely disappointing, to realise that there is no currently proposed therapy to better treat GBM within the clinic. Associating with both researchers and clinicians from around the world has reinforced the need and importance of the research I am conducting. I am excited that the work I am currently performing is novel, and possibly ground-breaking, in the treatment of this horrendous disease.

 Could you tell us about your presentation at the conference?

My poster presentations were focused on therapeutic targets for the treatment of glioblastoma. I presented results from the inhibition of mTOR, involved in DNA repair, in combination with a University of New South Wales developed drug that impedes sugar metabolism, known as PENAO, in the treatment of GBM in pre-clinical models (https://doi.org/10.1093/neuonc/nox036.212). I also presented results of a systematic review and meta-analysis of topoisomerase inhibition, involved in tumour cell replication, in GBM animal models (https://doi.org/10.1093/neuonc/nox036.213). 

 Is there any new knowledge or strategies from the conference you found interesting and possibly of interest to other TCRN members?

Discussions regarding new clinical trials investigating immune checkpoint inhibitors as a treatment strategy for GBM patients are extremely exciting when compared to previous negative clinical trial results. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are drug agents targeting molecules in the immune pathway that help GBM tumour cells from being eliminated by the immune system. It would be interesting to see in the future how we can apply such therapeutic strategies in the local neuro-oncology community.

 How can your research translate into improvements in patient care and clinical outcomes (Translational relevance)?

The aim of my research is to investigate novel therapeutic combinations, which can be a basis for early-phase clinical trials. Pre-clinical investigations of new drugs or drug combinations make an important contribution to the development and planning of innovative treatment designs for human clinical trials. One of the research projects I have performed examining the combination of a PARP inhibitor and radiotherapy in vivo (https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-017-1164-1), directly led to the design of the Phase 2 clinical trial, VERTU. This is a national trial that is currently recruiting newly diagnosed patients who have a genotype that is currently non-receptive to current treatments and make up a large portion of GBM sufferers.

 Could you tell us about your membership with the TCRN?

My supervisor, Associate Professor Kerrie McDonald, has been a TCRN member since its inception. She has always promoted within the laboratory and wider community the benefits of shared knowledge and facilities that the TCRN has enabled. As part of this, I have been generously given the opportunity to share my work abroad, which generated huge interest from international colleagues which I envisage will filter down to future collaborations and knowledge that will benefit, not only my laboratory, but the local brain cancer community.

Grant snapshot:

Conference: 5th Quadrennial Meeting of the World Federation on Neuro-Oncology Societies (WFNOS)

Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Funding Round: Round 1, 2017