New funding for Australian-first childhood cancer precision medicine centre
November 13, 2014
Children’s Cancer Institute has been awarded a grant of $1.5 million for the establishment of a precision medicine centre. The centre heralds a new era in childhood cancer research and treatment and has the very real potential to substantially improve patient outcomes and survival rates.
The grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) will enable the establishment of a unique Precision Medicine Centre for Childhood Cancer in Australia.
“From our many years of research, it’s become clear that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to treating children with cancer does not work, said Professor Michelle Haber AM, Executive Director of Children’s Cancer Institute. “That is why one in five children still die from their disease.
“The funding from ACRF will help Children’s Cancer Institute, together with our partners at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, develop a Precision Medicine Platform to give Australian children diagnosed with the most aggressive cancers the best possible chance of survival.”
Children with high risk or relapsed cancers have particularly poor outcomes and, for these children, there are limited treatment outcomes. Precision, or personalised, medicine represents an exciting opportunity to make major inroads into improving survival and quality of life.
The ACRF Precision Medicine Centre for Childhood Cancer will provide the capability for every newly-diagnosed Australian high risk childhood cancer patient, and every child who relapses following treatment, to have their therapy individually and uniquely personalised, based on a combination of genomic and molecular data relating to their own particular cancer, followed by monitoring of the response of their own tumour cells, growing in the laboratory, to specifically selected anti-cancer drugs.
The genomic revolution has given us unprecedented opportunities to study the underlying causes and characteristics of individual patients’ cancers. With the establishment of the ACRF Precision Medicine Centre for Childhood Cancer, researchers will now be able to more accurately diagnose and predict disease outcome; provide earlier intervention; identify new treatment regimens; reduce toxic side effects of treatment; and, ultimately, realise the vision of saving the lives of all children with cancer.
“No such program currently exists in Australia and we are very excited to be at the forefront of changing the way children with cancer are being treated,” says Professor Haber.
“This funding will be critical in helping us launch the platform for our Precision Medicine Program. Our goal is to be able to offer this program to every Australian child with high risk or relapsed cancer by 2020.”
About Children’s Cancer Institute
Originally founded by two fathers of children with cancer in 1976, Children’s Cancer Institute is the only independent medical research institute in Australia wholly dedicated to research into the causes, prevention and cure of childhood cancer. Forty years on, our vision remains unchanged – to save the lives of all children with cancer and to eliminate their suffering. The Institute has grown to now employ more than 220 researchers, operational staff and students, and has established a national and international reputation for scientific excellence.
Our focus is on translational research, and we have an integrated team of laboratory researchers and clinician scientists who work together in partnership to discover new treatments which can be progressed from the lab bench to the beds of children on wards in our hospitals as quickly as possible. These new treatments are specifically targeting childhood cancers, so we can develop safer and more effective drugs and drug combinations that will minimise side-effects and ultimately give children with cancer the best chance of a cure with the highest possible quality of life.
We are currently leading the establishment of the Zero Childhood Cancer national child cancer personalised medicine program for children with the most aggressive cancers, in partnership with the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network. This program will revolutionise the way treatment decisions are made, with the aim of improving survivorship for those children at highest risk of treatment failure from their disease.