Children's Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA) receives highest accolade in the state for translational cancer research
20 July, 2012
A team of CCIA researchers received the award for Excellence in Translational Research tonight at the Cancer Institute NSW Premier's Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research, for their achievements in bringing scientific innovations into clinical practice and improving survival rates for children with cancer.
Professors Michelle Haber, Glenn Marshall and Murray Norris jointly developed ground breaking minimal residual disease testing (MRD) for the most common childhood cancer: acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). The MRD test can predict which children suffering from ALL are at the highest risk of relapse on standard therapy, so that individualised treatment can be introduced in newly diagnosed children.
In an international clinical trial, which ran for almost a decade and enrolled more than 650 Australian children, the use of MRD testing has markedly improved survival rates for such high-risk patients and contributed to the improved overall ALL survival rate of well over 80 percent.
“Our translational - or bench to bedside - research is designed to deliver research discoveries in our laboratories more rapidly and effectively to children's bedsides in the hospitals,” says Professor Michelle Haber AM, Executive Director of CCIA. “It is immensely gratifying for all of us to see how our research work can make a real difference to survival rates of children with cancer.”
“The ability of the MRD test to identify children at high risk of relapse has dramatically changed our approach to treatment,” says Professor Marshall, Director of the Centre for Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders at Sydney Children's Hospital Randwick, and Head of Translational Research at CCIA.
“We can now tailor a specific therapy regimen for these children shortly after diagnosis, based on the results of our test. As our studies have shown so impressively, this provides children at high risk of relapse with a much better chance of survival. MRD testing is now considered part of the Standard of Care, and our test results are routinely used to guide treatment decisions in clinics across the country,” Prof Marshall continues.
The team is also regarded as being at the international forefront for their research into neuroblastoma, the most common solid tumour of young children. In order to improve the dismal survival rates for this aggressive cancer, the team have one clinical trial based entirely on their research currently open, and another, which is co-funded by a National Cancer Institute USA consortium, is about to commence shortly in both the USA and Australia. They also have a novel anti-cancer drug being developed for clinical trial with a US-based industry partner.
“We could not undertake our research without the close partnership that we have established between scientists and clinicians at CCIA and Sydney Children's Hospital Randwick,” says Professor Norris, Deputy Director of CCIA. “These close links are absolutely essential in helping drive improvements in the treatment, survival and quality of life for children with cancer.”
Professors Haber, Marshall and Norris' crucial role in facilitating collaboration on a national and international scale, and their translational achievements, have recently been acknowledged as part of a successful bid for the Cancer Institute NSW-supported Translational Cancer Research Centre for Kids, now known as the Kids Cancer Alliance (KCA).
The KCA formalises the close affiliation between all major clinical and research centres focusing on childhood cancer in NSW, and it is expected that this alliance will provide leadership on a national and regional level for further driving improvements in the treatment and survival of children with cancer.
The team has received, and continues to receive, funding for their groundbreaking research from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Cancer Institute NSW and the Cancer Council NSW.