20 September 2019 Featured News

Best brains on the job

New centre to research disease

Article written by Janelle Miles, Medical Reporter.

ISAAC Schulz was just four months old when he was diagnosed with a large, inoperable brain tumour, devastating his first-time parents.

His proud mum Luarna says her son, who will turn three in May, “hardly ever cried” through more than a year of chemotherapy, which shrunk his tumour by half.

“He’s a beautiful boy. He made the hard times a lot easier to get through,” the 29-year-old said.

Although the tumour – a juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma – has stopped growing, Ms Schulz says Isaac’s future is uncertain.

He is one of about 60 children diagnosed with brain tumours at the Queensland Children’s Hospital each year.

Today, a virtual Centre for Child and Adolescent Brain Cancer Research – the first of its kind in Australia – will be launched in Brisbane, bringing together the best minds in the field in Queensland to improve treatments and outcomes.

Once of centre’s four directors, paediatric oncologist Tim Hassall, said it was “a bit like having a State of Origin team” working on defeating childhood brain cancer.

He said the centre would not only work on developing new treatments for brain cancer, it would also research ways to better support children and families.

For example, they an in-depth study into the emotional and financial costs of a brain cancer diagnosis in a family to better advocate for support services, such as more social workers and psychologists.

Ms Schulz said Isaac was still tube-fed and unable to crawl after treatment for his brain tumour. He has regular physiotherapy and speech therapy.

“It definitely threw out a lot of plans in terms of having more children and things like that, but we’re so grateful to have Isaac with us today,” Ms Schulz said. “He’s definitely taught us a lot of strengths. He’s a very, very happy little man. He’s so strong and resilient. We couldn’t have asked for anything more with him.”

The new research centre is funded over five years with $5 million from the Children’s Hospital Foundation.

The Centre for Children and Adolescent Brain Cancer Research is a collaboration between the Queensland Children’s Hospital, the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and QUT. To donate, go to childrens.org.au/braincancer.