Our finest researchers among finalists in The Australian Innovation Challenge
October 24, 2015
A team of inspirational child cancer researchers – Professors Glenn Marshall, Michelle Haber and Murray Norris – have been selected as finalists in the Health category of The Australian Innovation Challenge, announced in The Australian newspaper today.
The challenge, which is in its fifth year, offers a total of $65,000 in cash prizes to help commercialise or promote the country’s best ideas.
Run by The Australian in association with Shell, and with the support of the Commonwealth Department of Industry and Science, the judges selected finalists across several professional categories, including manufacturing and hi-tech design, education and health.
Professor Glenn Marshall, Director of the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, has collaborated for over 25 years with Professors Michelle Haber and Murray Norris, Executive Director and Deputy Director of Children’s Cancer Institute respectively, to bring breakthrough research findings to the clinic.
In this instance, Haber, Norris and Marshall are being recognised for their pioneering work in improving the survival rates of children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common childhood cancer.
While most children respond well to treatment, around 10% are at high risk of relapse. Recognising the need for a better tool to predict the likelihood of relapse, the research team developed a technology able to detect one leukaemia cell among a million normal bone marrow cells, and then devised an intensive treatment strategy for children at risk of relapse.
A 7 year clinical trial, starting in 2002 and involving over 1,000 children with ALL, was conducted in Australia and the Netherlands using the new technology – known as Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) testing. High risk patients were treated with a particularly intensive chemotherapy plan, followed by bone marrow transplant. The strategy halved the relapse rate in high risk children.
MRD testing is now considered “standard of care” for children diagnosed with ALL – nationally and internationally.
An Awards Dinner will be held, and winners announced, on 25 November.
Photograph (left to right): Professor Michelle Haber, Professor Glenn Marshall and Professor Murray Norris.
Source: National Health and Medical Research Council.
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.