Looking Inside Brain Tumours for a Cure « Charlie Teo Foundation

Looking Inside Brain Tumours for a Cure

Researcher name: Prof Johanna Joyce
Institution: University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Grant Name: Research Rebels
Grant amount (AUD): $200K
Grant Awarded: 2021
Status: Ongoing

Meet the Researcher

Prof Johanna Joyce is a cancer biologist and geneticist with over two decades of oncology research expertise and is a strong advocate and mentor for young scientists. She completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge, held several senior research positions across the globe and is currently leading her research laboratory at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Prof Joyce’s laboratory studies brain cancers by literally ‘looking inside’ tumours to find ways of harness the immune system to fight the cancer.


Prof Joyce’s laboratory has developed a pioneering technology that allows scientists to visualise the tumour in living subjects in real-time. By employing these methodologies, Prof Joyce explores uncharted territory into how brain tumours evolve over time.

Currently, most brain cancer patients follow similar treatment plans. Identifying how a brain tumour evolves over time will improve our understanding of both what to treat and when to treat the cancer, offering opportunities to develop new therapeutic targets and treatment strategies.

Illuminating the brain tumour microenvironment: gaining new insights into gliomas through intravital imaging and molecular MRI

Brain tumours represent some of the most aggressive forms of cancer. The brain is our most critical organ, controlling every aspect of who we are as humans, and therefore brain tumours are also amongst the most feared of all cancers. Eighty percent of tumours that develop within the brain are gliomas, with over half being glioblastoma, the most malignant form of this disease. Unfortunately, despite treatment with standard of care therapy (surgery, radiation and temozolomide chemotherapy), glioblastomas are essentially incurable, and the 5-year survival rate for patients with the most aggressive gliomas remains <5%. This dismal clinical outcome underscores the urgent need for novel perspectives and effective therapeutic strategies to treat patients with this disease. We have been tackling this challenge in my lab for several years, and have taken the strategy of deeply exploring the brain tumour microenvironment (TME) as a means to exploit the knowledge we gain to develop new therapies. Since cancers and their TME are highly dynamic and co-evolve during tumour progression and in response to treatment, it is necessary to study cancer as it develops - in real time and in situ, in all its complexity. Therefore, my lab has now developed a strategy using the unique power of intravital microscopy (IVM) and molecular MRI to literally ‘look inside’ the brain of living animals in a longitudinal manner; a first in the cancer field.

In October 2022, Prof Johanna Joyce published results from the research supported by our grant in the prestigious journal of Science Translational Medicine. What she has discovered could change the landscape of how MRIs are done in the future as a central tool we currently use to diagnose brain cancer.