Australian First: Zero Childhood Cancer Program - Personalised medicine program aims to push childhood cancer survival rates to 100%
September 2, 2015
Children’s Cancer Institute and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick (part of The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network) are proud to announce one of the most exciting childhood cancer research initiatives ever undertaken in Australia, to tackle the most serious cases of infant, childhood and adolescent cancer. Launched today at Children’s Cancer Institute, ‘Zero Childhood Cancer’ gives hope to children with the highest risk of treatment failure or relapse.
The Program will involve the detailed laboratory analysis of each child’s unique cancer cells, to help identify the drugs most likely to kill their specific cancer. Scientists and doctors will then work collaboratively to identify and deliver the most effective treatment plan, specifically tailored to suit each child’s individual disease.
Despite the dramatic increase in childhood cancer survival rates over the last sixty years, from virtually 0% to 80%, nearly three Australian children and adolescents still die each week of cancer.1
Of the 950 children diagnosed with cancer each year in Australia, 150 are either diagnosed with cancer types that have less than a 30% survival rate, or suffer relapse and then have less than a 30% chance of cure. It is these children – including those suffering from the most aggressive forms of childhood brain tumours, sarcomas, infant leukaemias and neuroblastomas – who will benefit from the Zero Childhood Cancer Program.
In the first stage of the Program, scientists and doctors will open a pilot study to high risk NSW cancer patients in 2016. Following successful completion of the pilot study, a national clinical trial involving 120 children will open in 2017. When fully implemented, the Program will be offered to children throughout Australia who are at highest risk of relapse or treatment failure.
“This is a very exciting initiative that will revolutionise the way in which treatment decisions about childhood cancer will be made,” said Children’s Cancer Institute’s Executive Director Professor Michelle Haber AM.
“The challenge in curing every child is that each child’s cancer is unique, which means they respond differently to anti-cancer treatment. As the Personalised Medicine Program is implemented, and as we gather more information, we will hopefully get better and better at identifying the most effective treatment for each child’s cancer.
“We see this as a key step towards our vision of one day helping to cure 100% of children with cancer. Currently, for children with the most challenging forms of cancer, there is very little hope. This Program will offer them the best standard of care here in Australia.”
Professor Glenn Marshall AM, Director of the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, and Head of Translational Research at Children’s Cancer Institute is very optimistic about the potential of the Personalised Medicine Program to improve treatment and minimise the side-effects and suffering caused by chemotherapy.
“Knowing which drugs will not be effective in a patient is as important as knowing which drugs will be effective,” said Professor Marshall.
“Our ward is full of children suffering as much from the side effects of treatment as they are suffering from cancer. The data we will be gathering and using is exciting in two respects – we will have evidence-based treatment options in the present, and we will be building a powerful research repository for the future.”
Children’s Cancer Institute and Sydney Children’s Hospital are jointly recognised as international leaders in the field. In establishing this national child cancer personalised medicine program, they are collaborating with major research centres in the United States and Europe.
It is anticipated that total funding required for the Zero Childhood Cancer Program over the next six years will be more than $40 million. Initial funding has been received from the Federal government funded CRC for Cancer Therapeutics and also from the NSW state government for infrastructure.
In addition, support has been committed by several funding partners including Australian Cancer Research Foundation, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, The Kids Cancer Project and The University of New South Wales, Australia.
1. 0-19 years incidence data. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM) Books, 2015 http://www.aihw.gov.au/acim-books Accessed 12 August 2105.
ZERO CHILDHOOD CANCER PROGRAM PARTNERS
The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) is a charity dedicated funding the best cancer research initiatives across Australia that focus on effective prevention, detection and treatment. ACRF funds are used to purchase essential equipment and provide state-of-the-art technologies that speed up the discovery process – ultimately working to save lives by saving time.
About Cure Brain Cancer
Cure Brain Cancer is the largest dedicated funder of brain cancer research in Australia. Their mission is to increase five-year survival from the current 20% to 50% by 2023. Partnering with the research community, they are steering the national agenda – and influencing the global agenda – for brain cancer research.
About The Kid’s Cancer Project
The Kids’ Cancer Project is a leading Australian charity dedicated to funding medical research to find a cure for children’s cancer. Col Reynolds founded the independent charity in 1993 when he learned research was the only way to help end the pain and suffering children and their family’s experience. Today the charity is one of the largest funders of childhood cancer research in Australia and works together with families, the community, government, corporate, researchers and clinicians to help find the cure.
Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx) is in the business of finding cures for cancer. They are a collaborative partnership of leading Research Institutes, Universities and biotechnology companies that is solely focussed on translating Australia’s innovative research discoveries into new cancer drugs ready for clinical development. The company’s research and development capabilities span the full range of technologies and expertise required to discover novel small molecule cancer drugs and develop them to the clinical candidate stage.
About NSW Health
For more information visit, www.health.nsw.gov.au
About The University of New South Wales (UNSW)
For more information visit, www.unsw.edu.au
About The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network
The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network was established in 2010, incorporating The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, the Newborn and paediatric Emergency Transport Service (NETS), Bear Cottage, the Pregnancy and newborn Services Network (PSN) and the Children’s Court Clinic. The Network is the largest paediatric health entity in Australia, with a team of 5000 staff committed to providing world-class paediatric health care in a family-focussed, healing environment.
The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick provide care to over 120,000 families each year. Ground-breaking research into the causes, treatments and cures of many childhood illnesses is undertaken in conjunction with clinical care, changing the face of healthcare on an international scale.
For more information, visit www.schn.health.nsw.gov.au.
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 is to save the lives of all children with cancer and improve their long-term health, through research. The Institute has grown to now employ nearly 300 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.