Robots play major role in tailoring treatment for kids' high-risk cancers
September 2, 2016
Thanks to a $1.5M grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF), the new ACRF Child Cancer Personalised Medicine Centre’s specialised robots can now rapidly test hundreds of treatments for kids with high-risk cancers to guide their care.
The robots work 24/7 at Children’s Cancer Institute, in one of only three drug discovery facilities in Australia. Originally designed to develop new drugs, the facility is being put to a new use in the quest to match the safest, most effective drugs to individual cancer patients’ treatment needs. By testing the efficacy of already-approved drugs and their combinations against each child’s unique cancer cells, the robots will help identify those most likely to kill their specific cancer.
The ACRF Child Cancer Personalised Medicine Centre was officially opened today by His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia and Patron of Children’s Cancer Institute. It houses robotics, libraries of known and clinically-approved drugs, expanded tumour bank facilities, tissue culture and a state-of-the-art laboratory information management system.
The Centre will serve as operational headquarters for the Zero Childhood Cancer program, a national initiative of Children’s Cancer Institute and the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick. It is one of the most ambitious childhood cancer research initiatives ever undertaken in Australia, to tackle the most serious cases of infant, childhood and adolescent cancer.
Professor Michelle Haber AM, Executive Director of Children’s Cancer Institute, said the need for better treatment options is urgent.
“Every week in Australia, three children die of cancer. When standard treatments fail, these children have few options and little time.
“The ACRF Child Cancer Personalised Medicine Centre is the centrepiece of the most comprehensive program ever assembled in this country to analyse children’s cancers with a suite of tests, including several advanced gene sequencing [or genomic] tests, as well as drug sensitivity tests to better tailor treatment to the child’s individual cancer.
“The equipment that ACRF has provided will allow us to rapidly identify targeted treatments to recommend to clinicians in time to guide treatment decisions” she said.
Over the next four years, the Centre will receive and process hundreds of samples of patients’ tumours from partner children’s hospitals around Australia, will analyse the samples and test them against libraries of drugs approved for a range of adult and child cancers.
The drug-screening data that the robots will identify the drugs and drug combinations most likely to be effective in stopping the growth of each individual patient’s cancer cells, will form part of the reports that will go to clinicians, to guide treatment as part of the national clinical trial of the Zero Childhood Cancer Program which will open next year, led by the Kids Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick.
Mr Tom Dery AO, Chairman of Australian Cancer Research Foundation said that the growth of this program is a wonderful testament to the work that ACRF supports.
“We are here to challenge researchers and help push bold ideas forward. Being involved in and witnessing programs like Zero Childhood Cancer grow is exactly the sort of thing we hope for when we award funding.”
“Many of the partner research institutes involved in the national initiative have received grants from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation including Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics, Garvan Institute of Medical Research in NSW; The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in VIC; South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute in SA and the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute in QLD,” said Mr Dery.
Professor Ian Brown, CEO of Australian Cancer Research Foundation says, “By funding essential technology in cancer research, our supporters enable institutes like Children’s Cancer Institute to attract the world’s best researchers to Australia, allowing them to carry out their vision of one day curing childhood cancer.”
The grant received from ACRF is also funding expanded tumour bank facilities, improved tissue culture capability, and a state-of-the-art data management system that will link the results of the tests conducted at Children’s Cancer Institute with the clinical data from patients being treated as part of the Zero Childhood Cancer Program at paediatric oncology facilities around the country.
ACRF has supported Children’s Cancer Institute, including the Zero Childhood Cancer Program, by providing three grants, totalling $5.1million, towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.
About the Australian Cancer Research Foundation
The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) funds cutting-edge Australian research for all types of cancer. It provides funding for research infrastructure, technologies and equipment – resources that speed up discoveries in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The ACRF’s Medical Research Advisory Committee is comprised of some of Australia’s most respected cancer scientists (including Professor Ian Frazer AC, co-creator of the cervical cancer vaccine), who assess applications for ACRF funding according to world-class standards. For more information on the Foundation, please visit the ACRF website.
About Zero Childhood Cancer
The Zero Childhood Cancer Program is a national initiative of Children’s Cancer Institute and The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network. The Program is led by scientists and clinicians from Children’s Cancer Institute and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick and is 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.
It is anticipated that total funding required for the Zero Childhood Cancer Program over the next six years will be more than $50 million. Initial funding has been received from the Federal government-funded Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx) and also capital funding from the Commonwealth and NSW state governments. In addition, support has been provided by funding partners including Australian Cancer Research Foundation, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, The Kids Cancer Project and The University of New South Wales, Australia, the Rory Williams Fund, Robert Connor Dawes Foundation Lions Club International Foundation and the Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation and Tour De Cure.
Our research and clinical partners, collaborators and stakeholders include: Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW; Westmead Children’s Hospital, NSW; John Hunter Children’s Hospital, NSW; Kid’s Research Institute, NSW; Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, NSW; Children’s Cancer Centre, The Royal Children’s Hospital, VIC; Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, VIC; The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Women’s and Children’s Hospital, SA; South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, SA; Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, QLD; University of Queensland, Diamantina Institute, QLD; Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, WA; Telethon Kids Cancer Centre, Telethon Kids Institute, WA; Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, NIH, USA; DKFZ (German Cancer Research Center), Heidelberg, Germany; Kids Cancer Alliance; and the Australian and New Zealand Children’s Haematology/Oncology Group.
More information on our 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.