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Featured Leader Q&A: Lance Kawaguchi, CEO of Cure Brain Cancer Foundation

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Brain cancer is a disease that largely affects children, and is a complex condition to get around. Cure Brain Cancer Foundation’s newly-installed CEO Lance Kawaguchi discusses his plans and key causes for the foundation in this year. Read on for his insights.

HCC: What has made you passionate about working with Cure Brain Cancer Foundation?

Lance: My decision to join as CEO of Cure Brain Cancer Foundation was inspired by my mother who died of cancer in 2016. I really wanted to do something to honour her legacy. My mother always told me to be the change I want to see in the world – this is my chance to do that for her.

To honour her memory and life as a schoolteacher, I chose a disease that affects children: brain cancer.

We know that brain cancer kills more children than any other disease, and more people under 40 than any other cancer.  If you go back 20-30 years, there is still no difference in treatment options for brain cancer to what we are offering now. It is my purpose to change this.

It is my absolute commitment to reflect the bravery and urgency of our community. People with brain cancer do not have the luxury of time. We need to improve survival rates and quality of life, and for that we need to invest in research now, both to identify new treatments and to improve the efficacy of already existing treatments. It must be a concentrated effort between researchers, industry, and philanthropic organisations to accelerate brain cancer research to make any significant change to survival rates.

HCC: How has Cure Brain Cancer Foundation’s research and fundraising impacted the healthcare community and the way we see brain cancer?

Lance: Brain cancer research is our greatest annual investment, and our research strategy is designed to get new treatments to patients faster, by funding across the entire research pathway. The ‘research pathway’ refers to pre-clinical research done in the lab, all the way to clinical research done in humans. We endeavour to fund research that is looking for solutions to address some of the most invasive and fatal childhood cancers, in addition to supporting research on different forms of adult brain cancer, recognising the unique challenges in both.

Developing and testing novel and innovative treatments is the only way to improve survival and quality of life for people affected by the disease.

I believe that every person diagnosed with brain cancer in Australia should be able to access new treatments through world-class clinical trials.

We are delivering on that promise by bringing global clinical trial platforms like GBM AGILE, a revolutionary, first of its kind clinical trial for patients with glioblastoma (GBM) to Australia.

Funding is an integral part of our ability to accelerate access to new treatments for people living with brain cancer, by supporting vital research, advocacy and awareness for children and adults impacted by brain cancer.

Additionally, we recognise that to work effectively and expedite new treatments for brain cancer we need to work collaboratively. We are always looking for opportunities to partner with researchers, industry, investors and other global philanthropic organisations to achieve our mission and ultimately find a cure for brain cancer.

HCC: Please tell us about the Clinical Accelerator program, what it aims to achieve, and how it works.

Lance: The Clinical Accelerator program supports research discoveries through commercialisation, to accelerate new treatments to patients in Australia. The aim of the Clinical Accelerator is to de-risk investment for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, to encourage them to develop their most promising agents in brain cancer and enable leading researchers to advance their pioneering ideas into clinical development.

This program fills a gap in the current research commercialisation landscape by supporting translational research in brain cancer. This progresses ideas from early-stage, pre-clinical research, into a therapeutic product that shows proof of concept and viability for industry partnership and investment.

The Clinical Accelerator program targets the ‘Valley of Death’ and aims to de-risk investment for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to progress their treatments into the clinic.

We want to see Australia lead the way in the development and commercialisation of market-ready drugs and devices that will bridge the gap between innovative, early-stage cancer research and successful development of high-impact therapeutic products.

Our $2 million investment will act as leverage for researchers and industry partners, so they can develop the necessary proof of concept data which can then be used for securing larger, sophisticated investments and partnerships.

This program will enable leading researchers to advance their pioneering ideas into clinical development and will support biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry partners to progress new, urgently needed treatments for brain cancer.

We will be announcing the winner of the inaugural Clinical Accelerator in early April 2022.

HCC: What are Cure Brain Cancer Foundation’s plans for 2022?

Lance: In 2022, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation will continue to work globally to rapidly improve brain cancer survival. We will be investing in biotech and in the best cancer researchers to progress brain cancer treatments, improve survival rates and quality of life, which has not changed in the past 30 years.

I have recently been appointed as the new chairman for the Asian Fund of Cancer Research (AFCR), which will see me leverage new international collaborations and partnerships for Australia’s brain cancer community, sharing my expertise more broadly in the Asia-Pacific region. I have also been appointed as a board member of the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) in the United States, to leverage research efforts from across the globe.

We will continue to support researchers through our Mid Career Fellowships and Clinical Accelerator program, as well as lead philanthropic funder of the revolutionary brain cancer clinical trial in Australia, GBM AGILE. Announced this month, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation is investing in the establishment of GBM AGILE in Australia, with its largest ever single commitment of $8 million. The program will enable approximately 50 people per year who have GBM to access this adaptive clinical trial and give them access to new treatments never before available to brain cancer patients in Australia.

 

Note: Content has been edited for style and length.

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