It’s six months since the Zero Childhood Cancer personalised medicine national clinical trial began. We’d like to share some of our progress with you.

Zero Childhood Cancer is the most ambitious and comprehensive child cancer research program ever undertaken in Australia.  Led by Children’s Cancer Institute and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, this national program brings researchers and doctors together to identify personalised cancer therapy for the most serious cases of infant, childhood and adolescent cancer.

Seven centres now open

In an unprecedented national collaboration, the Zero Childhood Cancer program will link doctors from all eight child cancer treatment centres throughout Australia, together with eleven leading national research partners. When the program launched on 18 September 2017, only the centre based at Sydney Children’s Hospital was open. Since then, following a nationwide roll-out, six of the seven remaining centres have now opened. The final one, in Adelaide, is due to open soon.

a map of Australia showing which centres are open
Seven centres have opened in the last six months

The program is run using a ‘hub and spoke’ model. Children’s Cancer Institute and the Kids Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, are the Research and Clinical hubs respectively. They connect research and clinical collaborators (the spokes) in every major Australian city.

All centres have been keen to participate in the program. This pie chart shows the proportion of patients currently enrolled at each centre. Not surprisingly, the centres that have been open the longest tend to have more patients enrolled.

pie chart showing Percentage of patients currently enrolled at each treatment centre
Percentage of patients currently enrolled at each treatment centre

Fifty-three patients enrolled

In total, fifty-three patients have been enrolled in the program so far, with four more enrolments pending. These children are suffering from the most aggressive forms of childhood cancers, including central nervous system cancers (e.g. brain cancer), sarcoma, infant leukaemia and neuroblastoma, with a less than 30% chance of survival. This chart shows the relative proportions of the different types of cancers in children enrolled in the program.

a pie chart of the relative percentages of cancer types in children on the study
The relative percentages of cancer types in children enrolled in the program

A tumour sample and a blood sample are taken from each patient. The genetic material (DNA) is extracted and tested for mutations, to help identify the treatment most likely to be effective against each child’s cancer. Where possible, the patient’s cancer cells are also tested in the laboratory against a range of drugs, to see if any of them can stop the cells growing.

All results obtained from these different analyses are sent to a national Multidisciplinary Tumour Board consisting of research and clinical experts. After careful consideration, the board sends their treatment recommendations to the patient’s doctor.

Looking forward

The program will run until at least 2020, and expects to enrol up to 400 children. The information collected will not only be used to guide treatment options for the children enrolled, but will also build a powerful research repository for the future.

The program is free to children who meet the clinical trial enrolment criteria and enrolment is through their treating oncologist. The trial is sponsored by the Australian and New Zealand Children’s Haematology/Oncology Group (ANZCHOG).

The goal is for the program to be accessible to all children with high risk / refractory cancers at the completion of the trial in 2020.

Find out more about Zero Childhood Cancer.

The Zero Childhood Cancer program involves collaboration with major research centres in Australia, USA and Europe. The program utilises the best-of-the-best expertise in Australia’s paediatric hospitals and research centres and draws on a host of stellar medical and research establishments throughout the nation. Find out more about our partners here.

Top image: The Zero Childhood Cancer program is off and running (image: iStock)



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