Mark Hughes Foundation and University of Newcastle announce new $25 million Centre for Brain Cancer Research

University of Newcastle

The greatest minds that are fighting the frontline battle against brain cancer will be brought together as the new Mark Hughes Foundation Centre for Brain Cancer Research at the University of Newcastle, is officially announced today – Monday, June 27.

An exciting step forward for brain cancer research in Australia, the Centre’s dedicated brain cancer team will drive critical research, education, and health care improvements at a national scale for brain cancer patients, their families and carers, and health professionals.

Marking the beginning of the sixth annual NRL Beanie for Brain Cancer Round, to be officially launched by the Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF) at the Sydney Cricket Ground tomorrow, the new $25 million Centre builds on the existing partnership between MHF and the University of Newcastle, with MHF having now committed $15 million over five years to establish a dedicated research team and centre.

Kirralee Hughes, Mark Hughes, University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky, PVC College of Health Medicine and Wellbeing Professor Elizabeth Sullivan

Professor Michael Fay will join the University of Newcastle as the Foundation MHF Chair in Brain Cancer and Director of Mark Hughes Foundation Centre for Brain Cancer Research. Professor Fay brings extensive experience in medical and radiation oncology and an excellent track record in brain cancer research.

Having worked in more than 30 hospitals across five countries in both the public and private health sector and industry, Professor Fay – a previous recipient of a MHF HMRI Clinical Research Fellowship, possesses exemplary experience, leadership and commitment to brain cancer research that will be vital to ensuring the success of the new Centre.

Mark Hughes, a former Newcastle Knights NRL and NSW Origin player, said the fight for brain cancer is as urgent as ever, and the establishment of a dedicated research centre will help take brain cancer research to the next level.

“This is a game changing step for brain cancer research in Australia and something we have been working towards since 2014. More progress is urgently needed to improve the outlook for brain cancer patients – who are often in the prime of their lives, like myself – and their families,” said father of three, Hughes.

“We already have incredible players with a track record in brain cancer research and the Centre will now help bring these players together as a team and together we’ll be kicking goals. We will leave no stone unturned, we must get results as the clock is ticking for so many Australians.”

“We could not be more excited about the appointment of Professor Fay as the Foundation MHF Chair in Brain Cancer. We know firsthand what an extraordinary researcher Professor Fay is and through his leadership, we are sure the Centre will achieve outstanding results for everyone affected by brain cancer.”

“To every single person that has supported MHF and bought a beanie over the last 8 years, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. We are giving hope to so many, including myself.” said Hughes.

Each year, about 1800 Australians are diagnosed with brain cancer and 1500 die. MHF was formed in 2014 by Mark and Kirralee Hughes after he was diagnosed with a high-grade brain cancer. Since then the foundation has played a significant part in addressing chronic underfunding of brain cancer.

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky said that the University was honoured to be given the opportunity to launch the new research centre in the name of the Mark Hughes Foundation.

“We are extremely proud that with ongoing support for the mission of the Mark Hughes Foundation, we can now realise the vision of establishing a world-leading centre in brain cancer research and education.” Professor Zelinsky said.

Professor Michael Fay said that he was honoured to be appointed as the Foundation MHF Chair in Brain Cancer and Centre Director.

“The fight against brain cancer is an urgent one and the establishment of a dedicated brain cancer research centre further cements our commitment to helping solve this devastating disease. My ambition is to advance brain cancer research and achieve the greatest impact for brain cancer patients and their families,” Professor Fay said.

Researchers with the Mark Hughes Foundation Centre for Brain Cancer Research with Kirralee and Mark Hughes

In establishing the Centre, the University of Newcastle will continue to work in partnership with colleagues at HMRI and the local health district, and while the team who will lead the Centre is being established, Centre researchers are already working hard to find a cure for brain cancer.

With the support from MHF and their supporters, the Centre research projects span from discovery research and clinical translation to patient care and brain biobanking, exemplifying the depth and breadth of the Centre’s research focus.

Professor Zelinsky said the Mark Hughes Foundation Centre for Brain Cancer Research will be based at the University of Newcastle but will bring together a national network of experts in the field with the one vision – to cure and care for brain cancer patients, tackling brain cancer together.

“This is about harnessing the power of a team approach, bringing together the community, the academics leading the research, the clinicians, and the patients and their families, they will all be crucial aspects of this Centre as we work to improve the lives of people with brain cancer straight away,” Professor Zelinsky said.


The partnership between the Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF) and the University of Newcastle was established in 2021 with MHF making a $7.5 million five-year philanthropic commitment to establish a dedicated research team led by the inaugural MHF Chair in Brain Cancer.

In 2022 MHF have committed a further $7.5 million to establish the Mark Hughes Foundation Centre for Brain Cancer Research.

The University is also supporting the Centre to fast track brain cancer research with its contribution of $10 million.

Brain Cancer Statistics

  • Survival rates have increased by 1% over the last 30 years
  • Kills more children than any other disease
  • Only 2/10 people diagnosed will live more than 5 years
  • Kills more people under 40 than any other cancer
  • Receives less than 5% of federal funding for cancer research
  • One person every 5 hours is diagnosed in Australia

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