Single-cell sequencing of brain tumours

Sequencing lab entrance

Brain cancer kills more children in Australia than any other disease and more people under 40 than any other cancer. The worst type of brain cancer, a high grade glioma known as GBM, is also the most common. Despite surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy, there is a high treatment resistance and recurrence with median survival of less than 15 months from diagnosis. Intra and intercellular heterogeneity in high grade gliomas is thought to be at the root of therapeutic failure and the poor outcomes of numerous clinical trials. Previous investigations that have sought to characterise these brain cancers through genomic and transcriptomic methods have focused on profiling them as bulk tissue. While these studies have provided critical information on recurrent driver mutations and genomic rearrangements, bulk-profiling methods potentially mask the diversity of cells within each tumour. Single-cell (RNA and DNA) sequencing and spatial transcriptomics approaches present a unique opportunity to examine in detail the intricate ecosystem of diverse malignant cells driving brain cancer biology and treatment failure.

This research collaboration aims to generate high-quality single-cell data from high grade glioma patients collected from the Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank. Data generated from this work will be used to predict brain cancer diagnosis, prognosis and treatment options.

In line with the Charlie Teo Foundation’s value of openness, where possible, research findings and data will be made openly available for other researchers to learn and build upon.     

The team has successfully generated single-cell (RNA and DNA) sequencing and spatial transcriptomics on 100 brain tumour tissue samples collected by the Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank. In a continuation of Prof Powell’s collaborative work with the Charlie Teo Foundation, the team will analyse a further 80 brain tissue samples and fine tune the machine learning algorithms. Then by using real-world patient characteristics, the team will be looking for any critical treatment opportunities to help brain cancer patients.