Cancers we research

Children’s Cancer Institute is the only independent medical research institute in Australia wholly dedicated to curing childhood cancer. Our aim is to put an end to childhood cancer, and we’ve been working towards this goal for over 30 years.

Childhood cancer is different from adult cancer. That makes our work vital.

Michelle Haber PROFESSOR MICHELLE HABER AM
Researcher looking down microscope

Our focus is on translational research, making sure our discoveries are progressed into actual treatment for kids with cancer as quickly as possible. We seek to discover new treatments specifically designed for children, to develop safer and less toxic drugs that will minimise side-effects and ultimately give children with cancer the best chance of a cure with the highest possible quality of life.

The four main types of childhood cancers we research are:

  • leukaemia – Leukaemia (‘leukemia’ in the US) is the most common childhood cancer, accounting for about one third of malignancies and in children has two main subtypes, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
  • brain cancer – Brain cancers are some of the most difficult-to-treat childhood cancers. Two types of brain cancer in children are medulloblastoma and glioma, including an aggressive form of glioma called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG).
  • neuroblastoma – Neuroblastoma is a childhood cancer of specialised cells involved in the development of the nervous system and other tissues. The average age of diagnosis is just 1-2 years.
  • sarcoma – Sarcomas account for less than 3% of all cancers across all ages. Yet they are among the more common types of solid tumour in childhood.

Why research childhood cancer?

There is a large unmet clinical need for treatments specifically developed for childhood cancer. Children’s cancers are not only different from adults’ cancers, but children often respond differently to treatment. Most adult chemotherapy drugs target rapidly growing cells which, especially in the growing bodies of children, includes normal healthy cells. Pharmaceutical companies tend to focus their research and drug development on the larger market for adult cancers. That’s why our research is so important.

Key facts and figures about childhood cancer include:

  • Each year, over 950 children and adolescents (0-19 year olds) in Australia are diagnosed with cancer.
  • On average every week, nearly 3 children and adolescents in Australia die from cancer.
  • More than 20,000 young Australians have survived childhood cancer but 4 out of 5 experience at least one physical or mental health issue as a result of their life-saving treatment – so-called ‘late effects’ of treatment.

View our infographic ‘Childhood cancer fast facts’.