Harnessing AI to Halt Brain Cancer « Charlie Teo Foundation

Harnessing AI to Halt Brain Cancer

Harnessing AI to Halt Brain Cancer

Researcher name: Dr Guillermo Gomez
Institution: University of South Australia, AUS
Grant name: Teo Research Rebels
Grant amount: $200K
Grant years: 2021-2023

Meet the Researcher

Dr Guillermo Gomez is a cancer cell biologist and completed his PhD in cell biology at the National University of Cordoba, Argentina in 2008. His laboratory is globally recognised for studying brain cancer cell behaviour and over recent years has developed several tools to analyse how brain cancer cells and surrounding healthy brain cells interact. He has honed his expertise here in Australia at the University of South Australia and developed a powerful method of combining artificial intelligence with state-of-the-art 3D brain tumour models to study brain cancer.

Studying the tumour microenvironment in brain cancer is incredibly complex – there are few tools at hand and significant variation in current experimental models. This project has two key game-changing aspects: (1) to use artificial intelligence to analyse vast volumes of existing tumour images not easily capable by humans and (2) using a novel tool developed by Dr Gomez to re-create, cultivate and analyse the tumour in a 3D model called an organoid. This combination will enable Dr Gomez and his team to identify new therapies for brain cancer patients.

Few therapies are available and approved for use in brain cancer. By exploring a paradigm shifting approach to treating brain cancer, that is, to disrupt the tumour and it’s environment, this project will offer new treatments and strategies for brain cancer patients.

Harnessing artificial intelligence to develop new therapies for glioblastoma

While the survival rates of most cancers have dramatically improved in the last few decades, this is not the case for brain cancers, where the 5-year survival has hardly changed for 30 years, remaining around 20%. For glioblastoma, the most diagnosed malignant brain cancer in adults, the statistics are far worse, with a 5- year survival of just 5%. Despite recent advances in understanding some of the critical drivers of glioblastoma formation and progression, this knowledge has not yet translated into improvements in glioblastoma therapy. This lack of progress in the clinical setting is mainly due to the highly heterogeneous nature of glioblastoma and the ability of tumour cells to switch transcriptional programs in response to the interactions with cells in the tumour microenvironment, which leads to therapy resistance and tumour recurrence. Thus, targeting the interaction of tumour cells with non-malignant cells in the tumour microenvironment has recently emerged as an exciting anti-cancer approach in glioblastoma.