Treatment search for childhood cancer neuroblastoma gets $6.6M boost
February 8, 2017
New treatment approaches could emerge from research into the cancer that claims more lives of under 5s than any other
Research into new drug treatments for childhood cancer neuroblastoma has received $6.6 million over five years from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and will lead to clinical trials.
Little-known childhood cancer neuroblastoma is the most common solid tumour in early childhood and claims the lives of more children under five than any other cancer.
Professor Michelle Haber AM, Executive Director of Children’s Cancer Institute and Leader of the Institute’s Experimental Therapeutics Program, said that this funding, announced on World Cancer Day, is especially good news for children with high-risk neuroblastoma who have only a 40-50% chance of survival and, if they do survive, often suffer life-long health problems from their treatment.
“We’re thrilled to receive this NHMRC Program Grant to develop targeted combination therapies, not just to cure more children with neuroblastoma, but to reduce toxic side-effects as well,” she said.
Professor Haber, with fellow grant recipients Professor Glenn Marshall AM and Professor Murray Norris AM, has a 25 year track record in neuroblastoma research.
The team is ideally positioned to take any newly discovered drug combinations to the next stage.
Professor Marshall, Head of Translational Research at Children’s Cancer Institute and Paediatric Oncologist at Kids Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, said there has been little progress in neuroblastoma treatment for decades.
“We’re confident our research will lead to several clinical trials, an important step in getting new therapies to the clinic where they’re desperately needed,” Professor Marshall stated.
Neuroblastoma arises in embryonal cells involved in the development of the nervous system and other tissues for reasons still not well understood.
The researchers will explore how neuroblastoma tumours first arise and compare several strategies to target neuroblastoma at different disease stages, from initial formation of cancer cells to tumour progression and spread.
One of their aims is to combine conventional chemotherapy with new treatments to target different mechanisms of carcinogenesis.
Professor Norris, Leader of Molecular Diagnostics at Children’s Cancer Institute said it has long been known that neuroblastoma patients whose tumour cells contain multiple copies of the MYCN oncogene have a particularly poor prognosis.
“We’ve identified a gene that, when mutated, stops tumour development even with multiple copies of MYCN present. We’re keen to establish why.
“This research could lead to an entirely new approach to the treatment of neuroblastoma,” he said.
The grant was one of 110 projects awarded to 232 researchers totalling $125.3 million announced by the NHMRC at the weekend.
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.