Your Impact

better than one

Thanks to your support of Connor’s Run we have been able to invest in world class research and development.

You are helping change the odds for young people with brain cancer. Look what you’ve done and continue to help us do... Go you!

RCD Foundation Investments

A RCD Foundation Initiative

A mRNA Vaccine giving hope to childern with brain cancer

AU $2.4 million over three years.

The Robert Connor Dawes (RCD) Foundation has partnered with The University of Queensland and is committing $1.2 million to develop a brain cancer vaccine. With in-kind support from the University and a total project investment of approximately $2.4 million over a three year period, it is the first of its kind to apply technology to treat paediatric brain cancer.

Brain cancer remains the deadliest of all paediatric cancers. With over 100 different types of childhood brain cancers and minimal effective treatment options, often with significant long term side effects better therapies are urgently needed. One promising approach (known as immunotherapy), harnesses and amplifies the body’s natural response against the tumour which is often weak.

Paediatric brain tumours are good at hiding from the immune system, therefore they need to be exposed before an effective, full attack can occur. By directing the body to produce large amounts of specific tumour molecules, which, alone are not cancerous, we can  ‘train’ the immune system to efficiently recognise the tumour. This effectively   creates an army of targeted missiles against the brain tumour. One way of achieving this is through developing a mRNA cancer vaccine against brain tumours.

Every brain tumour type is different, and we are starting with ependymoma tumours. Ependymoma does not typically respond to any known chemotherapy, but a combination of surgery and radiation therapy can be effective in some patients. However, when those tumours reappear there is no effective therapy, and the prognosis for these relapsed tumours is typically very poor.

We have assembled leading experts in immunology and brain tumour biology to mentor the new project team which will be based at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Read more about the project HERE

Informing better treatment options

AU $2 million total investment (RCDF $333,000) over 3 years + now a further $300,000 to translate.

Our foundation has partnered with the Federal Government and Carries Beanies 4 Brain Cancer to validate new diagnostic test for patients with brain cancer, that changes the diagnosis and treatment in up to 20% of cases.

The test has been thoroughly validated through a clinical study involving sites across Australia and New Zealand. Results were benchmarked against gold standard testing in Germany and achieved 99% concordance. It involves profiling modifications to the tumours DNA which affect its activity (called DNA methylation profiling) to more specifically diagnosis the type of tumour at a molecular level.

Together with the new Brain Centre at WEHI, RCD is now committing more funds to support the translation of this important test into the Victorian Clinical Genetic Services at the Royal Children’s Hospital so that every child in Australian and New Zealand with a brain tumour can have access to the best available diagnostic test. For it to be fully implemented as a standard of care test we are seeking additional support from other funders.

If you are interested in becoming a funding partner please contact us here.

"I was fortunate to be treated under a clinical trial funded by the RCD Foundation which is the reason why my treatment was much less aggressive than it may have needed to be previously due to the understanding of the specifics of my tumour developed from investment in research. This is why funding research is so important: to better understand and improve the quality of life of those with brain cancer".

Olivia Phelan, 21
RCD Foundation Legacy Ambassador


Clinical Trials Program

Providing hope through funding clinical trials for children and adolescents with recurrent or progressive High-Grade Glioma.

AU $10 million total investment in clinical trials program ($1,250,000 RCDF) over 5 years.

As part of RCD Foundation's commitment to the Australian Brain Cancer Mission (ABCM), it has partnered with Love For Lachie and The Cure Brain Cancer Foundation to fund the Australian participation in the international NICHE-HGG (PNOC-019) trial for children and adolescents with recurrent or progressive High-Grade Glioma. The trial investigates the effectiveness of two different immunotherapic agents, is open at four children's cancer centres in Australia currently with more trial sites to follow soon. The trial will also soon recruit patients at hospitals across the US and internationally in Switzerland and Israel. This is the first clinical trial developed by the Pacific Paediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium (PNOC) to open here and Australian participation we hope will lead to more opportunities to bring other global cancer trials to Australian children with cancer. This trial is only the first of many more that RCD fund through the Australian and New Zealand Hematology and Oncology Group (ANZCHOG).

Pictured: Dr. Nick Gottardo, ANZCHOG Study Chair

in childhood high grade gliomas (HGG)

AU $462,266 for two fellowships over 4 years

In collaboration with the CHIVERS family, RCD funded a research fellow at the Hudson Medical Institute to characterise and screen a cohort of over 30 childhood high grade glioma models for new therapeutic targets, as part of a large international collaboration with the Children's Brain Tumour Network (CBTN) and other groups. Already, in the first two years, this project has yielded significant discoveries, with a number of druggable targets identified, specific to childhood brain tumours as compared to adult brain cancers. Next steps are validating these effects in animal models before progressing into human trials for which a second fellowship has now been funded for another two years. 

AU $99,000 total scholarship (RCD $49,500) over three years

In a separate project RCD with the Pirate Ship Foundation, cofunds a PhD student at the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth to fully understand the role of a protein called ErbB4, which has already been shown to be associated with poor prognosis for DMG (previously called DIPG) and glioblastoma high activity levels. At the end of the first year, the expression of different forms of this protein have been identified and characterised in 16 patient-derived cell lines. Next steps are to understand the signalling pathways which this protein is involved in and how it contributes to events causing healthy cells to turn into cancerous ones in these tumours.

Pictured: Leigh, Sara, Hudson and Alfie Chivers

Developing the latest immunotherapy for glioblastomas

AU $500,000 over 5 years.

Our immunotherapy project with the Jenkin’s Laboratory at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), has achieved some very promising results in which glioblastomas in mice were cured with white blood cells which were genetically modified (Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cells) to specifically recognise a particular cancer marker on the surface of the tumour cells (EGFRVIII). This therapy not only killed the cancer cells leaving the healthy surrounding cells, but the mice remained cancer free for four months once the tumours were cleared. These significant results continue to progress the technology forward towards translation into humans.

Pictured: Dr. Misty Jenkins, WEHI

To provide hope


We're joining forces with the Children’s Cancer Institute (CCI) to augment their brain cancer efforts within the Zero Childhood Cancer Program

RCDF supported Zero Childhood Cancer Program at the Children’s Cancer Institute (NSW), which combines the latest medical, technological, and research available to provide hope to children with rare and aggressive cancers where there is currently little or no treatment options. Our funding has contributed to approximately, 200 children with high-risk brain tumours being enrolled in a national clinical trial as well as 148 tumour samples which have been stored and used in high throughout drug screens and developing animal models with a view to finding new therapeutics. 

Pictured: A/Prof David Ziegler, Children's Cancer Institute

Music Matters Grants

AU $250,000 (to date)

Music is more than just fun and relaxing, it can have a profound impact on our brains. Music therapy is the evidence-based use of music to accomplish individualised treatment goals. It can help with learning.

Through its use of shared networks in the brain, music can target speech & motor deficits. It can help to improve memory and attention, as well as enhance psychological coping. Music therapy is non-invasive and is motivating, both of which help the heart sing and the brain heal.


To perform world class research

Smarter, more tailored treatments

AU $196,278 over 2 years

Together with the GRACE MONEY family, we are supporting a molecular oncologist position at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. This funding allows brain tumours to be accurately classified according to their genetic signature, which, in some cases, influences treatment options. It also advances research into more precise, individualised treatments for children with solid and/or brain tumours. As a direct result of funding this position, the RCH will increase its participation in brain cancer and/or solid tumour paediatric and adolescent clinical trials beyond the trials currently open.

Pictured: Liam and Grace Money

To advance knowledge

Supporting young paediatric brain cancer researchers to advance our basic knowledge of tumour formation in paediatric high-grade gliomas (HHG).
AU $90,000 over 3 years

The PhD project funded by GIDEON GRATZER family, aims to identify and validate new druggable targets for paediatric HHGs. It focuses on a biological molecule that allows damaged cells and those with genetic changes which would normally be destroyed and removed from the normal population to survive and become cancerous. By stopping the action of this molecule, we can potentially prevent tumour growth, also allow those tumour cells to undergo the natural programmed cell death. In its second year, it has already confirmed the role of this molecule in paediatric tumour cell lines.

Pictured: Gideon Gratzer and Rebecca Goldstein

Working towards effective, targeted treatment for ependymoma

US$200,000 (RCD $100,000) 2 years per fellowship

The CERN Robert Connor Dawes Fellowship Scientific Fellowship is an international open competitive grant awarded by the National Brain Tumor Society. The 2020 recipient, Dr Chan Chung at the University of Michigan, investigated the role of a specific protein called EZHIP, thought to be important for tumour growth. His work not only demonstrated increased metabolic activity in ependymomas in the hindbrain involving this protein but also by targeting it with an anti-diabetes drug this effect could be attenuated in animal models, indicating therapeutic potential.            

We now proudly congratulate the 2022 Fellowship recipient, Dr Kendra Maass, based at the Hopp Children’s Tumor Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) and German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). She is studying the cellular transport pathways in which Ependymoma cancer cells can spread via the blood to other sites in the body. By better understanding and characterising the role of extracellular vesicles in Ependymoma metastases, Dr Maass hopes to identify points in the transport pathway which can be targeted to stop the spread of the cancerous cells. She will also apply the new knowledge to evaluate if these ependymoma specific transport vesicles can be used to improve diagnosis specificity using molecular markers to subgroup ependymomas and separately if they offer any prognostic value as a surrogate marker.

Pictured: Dr. Kendra Mass, Hopp Children’s Tumor Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) and German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)

& advance global paediatric brain cancer research

AU $135,355

We continue to support knowledge exchange to advance the field, by sponsoring leading international conferences including the Australian and New Zealand Children’s Haematology and Oncology Group (ANZCHOG) annual scientific conference, the International Scientific Paediatric Neuro Oncology (ISPNO) conference and a smaller meeting of world expertise in Ependymoma in Cambridge in 2022.

for paediatric brain cancer clinical trials

US$50,000 per year.

This year RCD became a funding partner of the COllaborative Network for Neuro-oncology Clinical Trials. Involving nineteen hospitals and institutions across Australia, North America and Europe, CONNECT, conducts clinical trials in high-risk paediatric brain tumours to investigate combinations of novel drugs with traditional therapies. It provides a unique, agile platform for basic science discoveries to be rapidly tested around the globe. As a funder, we contribute to enabling infrastructure, ensuring participation from Australia and America and the evolution of an operational framework meeting theunmet needs across the globe.

world class research into paediatric brain tumours

AU $40,000 over two years

Tumour tissue samples are vital to understanding how paediatric brain cancers occur, spread and how to treat them, especially given the differences between the types and heterogeneity even within a single tumour type and individual patient. RCD continues to contribute funding to the Children’s Cancer Centre Tissue Bank based at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute which collects tissues from patients at the Royal Children’s Hospital for research purposes. Samples are shared with other research institutions locally, nationally and internationally to facilitate more than 20 projects.

on a global scale

AU $27,300 

RCD is an active member of the DIPG Collaborate, Collaborative Ependymoma Research Network (CERN) and Children’s Brain Tumour Network (CBTN). RCD represents the Australian funding community, stays abreast of the latest research, participates in funding and determining proprieties. The networks expedite high quality research through strong global collaboration.  We recently cofounded a project through the DIPG Collaborate which collectively invested approximately US$4,000,000 in research in 2021. RCD also supported a National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding application through the SPORE program to determine the genetic sequence of more than 1,500 paediatric brain tumour specimens and more than 3,000 germline samples which was awarded to CBTN in 2021. This critical data will be available to other global researchers to mine for potential new insights into the biology of childhood brain cancer.

RCD also worked with the CERN Foundation and the National Brain Tumor Society to develop the Ependymoma Key Issues document, which was featured in Brain Tumour magazine, published by the International Brain Tumour Alliance (IBTA) and provided resources for Ependymoma Awareness Day.

in paediatric brain cancer

The RCD Foundation and The Kids Cancer Project (TKCP) co-hosted a meeting in Melbourne in May, attracting clinical and academic researchers and other interested parties from across most states to identify the current challenges and suggest potential solutions. These were collated in a report and the actions allocated to willing parties.

We also facilitated a big data workshop in March between interested Australian pediatric brain cancer researchers and our colleagues at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Childrens Brain Tumour Network (CBTN) who are world leaders in this field. We had representatives from ten different organisations/institutes across Australia. By comparing Australia and the US teams’ capabilities and capacity we were clearly able to articulate gaps, challenges and opportunities. RCD hopes further discussions will shape one of the large collaborative projects we will invest in the near future.

10 years of impact film