Zero Childhood Cancer Program receives $20M funding commitment from the Federal Government

Little girl going through chemotherapy treatment from home

The ‘Zero Childhood Cancer’ Program, a personalised medicine program giving hope to children with the highest risk of treatment failure or relapse has received a $20M funding commitment from the Federal Government. The program aims to have each patient’s therapy individually and uniquely personalised based on a combination of genomic and molecular data relating to their own particular cancer.

This exciting program will produce a detailed laboratory analysis of each child’s unique cancer cells to help identify the drugs most likely to kill their specific cancer. Researchers and clinicians can then work collaboratively to identify and deliver the most effective treatment plan, specifically tailored to suit each child’s individual circumstances.

Since 2001, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) has proudly awarded the Children‘s Cancer Institute $5.1 million in grants to fund programs like this. This funding was provided to help researchers make breakthroughs in all childhood cancers, as well as breast, prostate, lung, colon and brain cancers.

“Seeing programs like this grow is exactly the sort of thing we hope for when we award grant funding each year. ACRF funds new, often ground-breaking programs, that are based on sound science and have significant potential. These projects are often lead by some of the best scientists and clinicians across the country and, in some cases, even the world. Collaboration is at the heart of finding the most effective methods and treatments for cancer and the Zero Childhood Cancer Program is a demonstration of how Australian researchers are creating the building blocks for this important national initiative.” ACRF CEO, Ian Brown.

The personalised medicine platform will give Australian children diagnosed with the most aggressive cancers the best chance of survival. “As the Personalised Medicine Program is implemented, and as we gather more information, we will hopefully get better and better at identifying the most effective treatment for each child’s cancer.”

From the institute’s many years of research, it became clear that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to treating children with cancer was not working, as one in five children diagnosed were still dying from their disease. “The challenge in curing every child is that each child’s cancer is unique, which means they respond differently to anti-cancer treatment.

“We see this as a key step towards our vision of one day helping to cure 100% of children with cancer. Currently, for children with the most challenging forms of cancer, there is very little hope. This program will offer them the best standard of care here in Australia.”

This new approach has the very real potential to substantially improve patient outcomes and survival rates. Professor Glenn Marshall AM, Director of the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, and Head of Translational Research at Children’s Cancer Institute is very optimistic about the potential of the Personalised Medicine Program to improve treatment and minimise the side-effects and suffering caused by chemotherapy.

“Knowing which drugs will not be effective in a patient is as important as knowing which drugs will be effective. Our ward is full of children suffering as much from the side effects of treatment as they are suffering from cancer.”

“The data we will be gathering and using is exciting in two respects – we will have evidence-based treatment options in the present, and we will be building a powerful research repository for the future.”

This commitment in funding will help broaden the scope for the program so that it can become a national clinical trial involving 120 children. When fully implemented, the program will be offered to children throughout Australia who are at highest risk of relapse or treatment failure.

Today marks the closing day for Grant Applications for ACRF 2016 Grants. Each year researchers are raising the bar with bold initiatives that we can’t afford not to invest in. This is why our community of supporters are so important, they enable brilliant work that saves lives.

The original article was published on the Children’s Cancer Institute website. To read the original article, please click here.