Team of Australian experts undertake pioneering approach to aggressive cancers
March 25, 2015
A team led by Children’s Cancer Institute researchers has been awarded a grant by the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC), announced today by the Minister for Health, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, for its innovative work into two of the most aggressive types of childhood cancer.
Professors Maria Kavallaris and Richard Lock are part of a team of investigators that have received a $7 million program grant, which aims to develop new approaches to diagnose and treat cancers which currently have poor outcomes.
The cancers being targeted are aggressive types of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, the commonest childhood cancer, and neuroblastoma – the commonest form of cancer in infancy. Patients with the most common form of lung cancer will also benefit.
“We are striving to develop effective and less toxic cancer therapies, which can still target the tumour cells, but spare the normal healthy cells,” says Professor Maria Kavallaris, lead Chief Investigator, Head of Children’s Cancer Institute’s Tumour Biology and Targeting Program and Co-Director of the Australian Centre for NanoMedicine.
“Not only will this be better for patients undergoing treatment, it will also potentially minimise the damage conventional chemotherapy has on patients, such as fertility, cardiac and endocrine problems.”
The grant will enable the team to develop new drug and gene delivery systems, as well as biosensors to detect and monitor these diseases in children.
“One of the biggest challenges we face in cancer treatment is the toxicity of standard chemotherapy towards normal cells, which can lead to terrible side-effects and life-long health issues for cancer survivors,” continues Professor Kavallaris.
“This program will investigate the development of nanotechnology for less invasive methods to diagnose and treat cancer.”
Professors Kavallaris and Lock are joined by Professor Tom Davis, leading polymer chemist at Monash University and Scientia Professor Justin Gooding, leader of Australia’s Biosensors and Biointerfaces research group and co-Director, Australian Centre for NanoMedicine at UNSW, bringing together a unique mix of expertise in the areas of chemistry, biosensors, cancer biology and therapeutics for the program grant – which is the first of its type to focus on diagnostics and therapeutics.
See NHMRC’s announcement and media release on their website.
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.