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Shared vision to end brain cancer as a terminal illness

This article featured in Illuminate Newsletter Autumn ‘22
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Introduction

WEHI director Professor Doug Hilton AO and Carrie Bickmore AOM have led the establishment of The Brain Cancer Centre – a collaboration born from the united goal of bringing together the brightest minds in medical research to end brain cancer as a terminal illness.

Doug Hilton outside the WEHI building
Professor Doug Hilton teams-up with Carrie Bickmore to end brain cancer as a terminal illness by establishing The Brain Cancer Centre.
Doug:

I first met Carrie outside the WEHI building in Parkville, Melbourne when she came to meet with one of our brain cancer researchers Associate Professor Misty Jenkins. I was instantly struck by the passion and drive Carrie showed through her work with Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer.

Carrie’s foundation got to know and understand WEHI, and vice versa, leading us to develop a vision that reflected our shared commitment to improving the lives of people diagnosed with brain cancer.

While our individual efforts were quite different, we were able to combine the best of both our approaches to form The Brain Cancer Centre – a place where some of the nation’s brightest minds can unite to develop potential new treatments for a disease that currently has no cure.

Founded by Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer, The Brain Cancer Centre was established in partnership with WEHI with support from the Victorian Government, and in collaboration with amazing partners like Peter Mac, The Royal Melbourne Hospital and The Royal Children’s Hospital.

In order to achieve our ultimate goal for brain cancer, we need a real sense of urgency to make a difference for patients today, as well as the resilience to research this problem long-term. This will allow us to make gradual improvements that will hopefully be punctuated with major breakthroughs.

Carrie really understands this; she wasn’t interested in giving us funding and then walking away. She wanted to be a part of the journey with our researchers.

She is acutely aware medical research is an endeavour that requires lots of stamina and patience – and she has been fully invested in this journey for years. Several hundred thousand people have bought her beanies and she cares about every single one of them.

Carrie wants to ensure she is repaying the trust that people have shown in her, and that tenacity and determination is something that has resonated with me.

I think the reason Carrie and I work so well together is due to the different ways we perceive the world. To me, that is the most exciting part about collaborations. Healthy challenging is essential to a healthy collaboration and partnership, like the one Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer and WEHI has formed.

“If you’re working with people who see the world differently, but are also respectful and collegial when presented with different viewpoints, then remarkable and exciting things can happen.”

I am absolutely delighted that important scientific conversations are taking place that have only been made possible because of The Brain Cancer Centre.

Brain cancer is a devastating disease, and we will continue working towards overcoming its dire outcomes until it comes to a point where brain cancer is treated like cancers in the prostate or breast, where patient outcomes are promising.

Carrie Bickmore wearing a light pink beanie
The Centre for Brain Cancer was founded by Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer – a foundation established by journalist and TV host Carrie Bickmore.
Carrie:

While I have known Doug for many years through my foundation, it was only when we began seriously discussing a potential new approach to brain cancer research in Australia that I got to know him properly.

Through our conversations, we were able to form an exciting partnership built on mutual respect and a desire to achieve the same goal, even though we approach the issue from different perspectives.

My goal was to get more people talking about brain cancer and raise awareness, which leads to more funding and support.

I really wanted to help get the issue on the government’s agenda and to increase funding for brain cancer in line with other cancers. I started out wanting to raise $1M for brain cancer research.

Thanks to the generosity of every person who has bought a beanie or donated, Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer Foundation has so far raised over $18M, which is just incredible.

To see that money now being used to fund vital research through The Brain Cancer Centre is amazing.

The Brain Cancer Centre is the result of many years of work in this space and seeks to establish a critical mass of multidisciplinary researchers who are committed and coordinated. Our aim is to bring many minds together with one focus: to end brain cancer as a terminal illness.

“We’re doing everything we can to find better treatment options for patients and hopefully one day find a cure for brain cancer. Survival rates haven’t changed in 30 years and that’s unacceptable. I believe that together we have what it takes to change this.”

Working with Doug has taught me to dream big, because there is always a new and innovative way to approach a problem. This is exactly what we have done with the establishment of The Brain Cancer Centre.

I am so excited to see it become a beacon for brain cancer research in Australia and the world. Doug has made me believe that with the right approach, and the right teams of people, we will have the best chance of changing the currently devastating brain cancer statistics.

I really believe that together we can make a difference.

First published on 06 March 2022
This article featured in Illuminate Newsletter Autumn ‘22
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