DR MARLENE HAO
DR MARLENE HAO
Success: Completing in vivo analysis
Cancer Type: Brain Cancer
In 2021 and 2022, Marlene is generously funded by the Jennifer Eggins Trust.
Gliomas are the most prevalent malignant brain tumour, formed through mutations in the glial and stem cells in the brain. They are also found throughout the nervous system, including the enteric nervous system in the gut, but interestingly, over 95% of glial tumours in the bowel are benign. Which begs the question, what properties of enteric glial cells protect them from developing aggressive cancers?
So in 2021, Dr. Marlene and her team focussed on investigating this phenomenon. Despite a few setbacks due to lockdowns in Victoria, she and her team had been successful in completing their in vivo analysis. They cross-planted brain tumour cells in the gut and found that they do not survive well in this environment. This confirms their hypothesis that there are protective mechanisms in the glial cells, and further studies will be looking at how these properties can be translated for the treatment of brain cancer.
While examining the gut environment more closely, Dr. Marlene and her team also found that enteric glial cells are associated with increased immune cells. This suggests that mutant enteric glial cells might be able to recruit immune cells to the gut, thus targeting the over-proliferating glia. Further study will be examining the interactions between oncogenic enteric glia and the immune system closely.
"This will be the focus of our studies going forwards into 2022. We hope that our results can identify targets that help in the development of immunotherapy for brain cancer."
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