7 Nov 2019

2019 CCS research highlights: Department of Neuroscience

Monash University's Central Clinical School is at the cutting edge of medical research in national and international arenas. We are publishing a series of our research highlights from across 2019.

In this article, we feature two highlights from the Department of Neuroscience.
  • Novel drug may be ‘Holy Grail’ of epilepsy treatment
  • Cancer drug holds hope for brain tumour patients 

Dr Pablo Casillas-Espinosa 
i.  Novel drug may be ‘Holy Grail’ of epilepsy treatment

A drug being tested by CCS's Department of Neuroscience researchers may prevent the development of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE), the most common form of acquired epilepsy in adults.

TLE develops after a brain insult such as injury, stroke, infection or tumour. While drugs can be given to patients to suppress seizures, the disease is incurable.

The Monash University researchers found that the compound Z944 prevented the development of TLE in 80% of animals, and also significantly improved depression, memory and learning problems associated with the disease.

“It could be transformative for patients that could potentially go on to develop epilepsy after a brain insult,” Dr Pablo Casillas-Espinosa said. “It’s extremely important because right now there’s nothing we can give to patients to avoid the development of epilepsy.”

Head of the Department, Professor Terry O’Brien, said that the 'Holy Grail' for therapy development in epilepsy was to find a medical treatment that was effective in preventing or reversing epilepsy development, rather than just suppressing seizures. “The results from this paper suggest that Z944 could be such a treatment,” he said.

The study was published in the high-impact journal Progress in Neurobiology. See our feature

Dr Mastura Monif in clinic
ii. Cancer drug holds hope for brain tumour patients 

The Department of Neuroscience has collaboratively conducted research showing an experimental brain cancer drug may be a promising treatment for people with the devastating disease glioblastoma.

Glioblastoma is the most severe form of primary human brain cancer. It accounts for 80 per cent of the 1750 brain cancers diagnosed in Australia each year and is currently incurable. Average life expectancy after diagnosis is 15 months.

The research, conducted with Melbourne Health, Alfred Health and the University of Melbourne, showed that cancer cells in six human glioblastoma tumours removed from patients during surgery and treated with the drug AZ10606120 were reduced by almost half compared to control samples. The drug was able to halt the cancer’s growth and diminish its dividing capacity in only three days.

Lead researcher Dr Mastura Monif said glioblastoma can have life-changing consequences for the patient, family members and society. “The currently available treatment approaches are not curative, not effective and impose so many adverse side-effects,” she said. “Our results thus far with use of AZ10606120 as a means of inhibiting a particular protein called P2X7R is very promising.”

Dr Monif said the team of clinician-researchers hoped to develop this research to devise a much better treatment.

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