New genome sequencing technologies for childhood cancer patients

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Australian children with high-risk cancer will have access to new genome sequencing technologies that could help guide their treatment thanks to the Lions Kids Cancer Genome Project.

The Zero Childhood Cancer Program launched in September 2015 and is currently one of the most detailed genetic and biological analyses of children’s cancer globally. The Lions Kids Cancer Genome project will serve as an important new component to the program as it expands its efforts.

Whole genome sequencing will take place following diagnosis or relapse of cancers with the poorest prognoses, such as brain tumours.

Sequencing looks at each child’s entire genome and its 20,000+ genes in order to define the genetic changes associated with a given cancer. This makes it possible to develop personalised cancer treatment by integrating genetic information with other biological and clinical data.

In addition, the study will identify genetic changes in each child’s DNA that might predispose a person to cancer, helping to build up a database of genetic risk factors that could assist with prevention and treatment strategies in the future.

At any one time in Australia, over 2,000 children, adolescents, and young adults, are on active treatment for cancer or at risk of relapse. In most cases, the treatments used are general, non-targeted, cytotoxic drugs and the side effects from treatment can be serious and lifelong.

The Zero Childhood Cancer Program is a national initiative of Children’s Cancer Institute (CCI) and The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, giving hope to children with the highest risk of treatment failure or relapse. Genome sequencing and analysis for the project will be carried out at Garvan Institute of Medical Research’s Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics.

The Lions Kids Cancer Genome Project is supported by the Lions Club International Foundation and by the Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation. The project will roll out through the Zero Childhood Cancer Program to children’s hospitals across Australia in 2017.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) welcomes the new initiative and partnership which will contribute towards improving children’s quality of life and ending all childhood cancers.

ACRF has supported Children’s Cancer Institute, including the Zero Childhood Program, by providing three grants, totalling AUD $5.1million, towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology. ACRF has also supported cancer research at Garvan Institute of Medical Research, including the Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics, with three grants, totalling AUD $6.13million.

The original news post was published on the CCI and Garvan websites.

Research discovery paves the way to prevention of a common childhood cancer


Researchers at Children’s Cancer Institute have identified a molecular ‘feedback loop’ that accelerates the development of neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nervous system in children. Fortunately, the research team has also identified an experimental drug, currently in clinical trials for adult cancer, with the potential to interrupt the loop and halt tumour progression.

Researchers showed in laboratory models of neuroblastoma that the drug could block the very start of this embryonal cancer, paving the way to possible prevention strategies in the future.

They found that a combination of the drug – known as CBL01371 – used in combination with traditional DNA damaging chemotherapy agents was much more effective than either drug alone.

Professor Michelle Haber AM, leader of the Experimental Therapeutics laboratory and Professor Glenn Marshall AM, leader of the Molecular Carcinogenesis laboratory at Children’s Cancer Institute, worked on two very different aspects of the study.

Professor Marshall’s team focused on the genetic and molecular mechanisms behind the feedback loop, and its interruption by CBL0137. Professor Haber’s team focused on the therapeutic potential of CBL0137, both as a single agent and in combination with other drugs.

“Our laboratory tests tell us that CBL0137 is likely to be very effective against the most aggressive neuroblastomas, and indeed the most aggressive forms of other childhood cancers, and that is very exciting,” said Professor Haber.

“But what is particularly exciting is that, in contrast to many other chemotherapeutic agents, CBL0137 does not damage DNA, and it is DNA damage that is responsible for the many unpleasant and serious side-effects that frequently affect children after they are cured of their cancer.”

“The drug is currently in Phase 1 clinical trials for adults, which means that safe dosage levels are being tested. Once the adult trials are completed, a Phase 1 trial for children with refractory – or relapsed – neuroblastoma, and also other aggressive childhood cancers, will open in the United States and Australia,” Professor Haber said.

Neuroblastoma is the most common solid tumour cancer of early childhood, and is generally diagnosed when the disease is advanced. Around half of all children with neuroblastoma have aggressive tumours, and fewer than half of these patients survive, even after intensive treatment.

These findings are published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

This news item was originally published on the Children’s Cancer Institute’s website. The original version provides more detailed scientific information on the study.

ACRF has supported cancer research at the Children’s Cancer Institute by providing three major grants, totalling AUD $5.1m.

Image courtesy of Children’s Cancer Institute. Clockwise from left to right: Professor Glenn Marshall, Dr Dan Carter, Professor Murray Norris, Professor Michelle Haber, Jayne Murray

Who is The One?

TheOne, ACRF, Fighting CancerNext week on February 4, people around the world will be getting involved in World Cancer Day, joining forces to show that cancer, its treatments and its cures are not beyond us.

A cancer free future is within our reach and we as a global community have the power to achieve this.

Fittingly, World Cancer Day’s 2015 tagline also ties in with some extremely exciting events happening at the ACRF. Next week is set to be a very momentous one.

Over many months, an incredible team of people – digital agencies, media outlets, Australian cancer researchers, and more – have been busily supporting the ACRF to produce a truly inspiring and original campaign.

It’s a campaign we hope will create a new movement towards increased support for cancer research.

While we can’t say too much to spoil the surprise, our campaign uses the latest in digital and social technology to give you – our supporters – a unique interactive experience.

We want to show you just how important you are in this fight against cancer.

The new campaign will feature alongside a series of websites that the ACRF has been developing in collaboration with Australian scientists, research centres, other not-for-profits, and like-minded organisations.

This community-based initiative is the next step towards putting an end to cancer. Its focus is to generate more awareness and funding for cancer research and we are so excited to get our supporters involved.

We look forward to staying in touch with you on new developments and for those on social, be sure to follow #WhoIsTheOne . Thank you for your ongoing and loyal support for cancer research.

Campaign supporters (what an amazing list of super generous organisations!):

ARI Registry Services
Australian Radio Network
Bang PR
Children’s Medical Research Institute
Commercial Radio Australia
Fairfax Media
Fairfax Radio
Hoyts Cinema
JC Decaux
King & Wood Mallesons
M&C Saatchi
Nine Network
Ooh! Media
Seven Network
Special Broadcasting Service (SBS)
Sticky Digital

Professor Haber wins NSW Cancer Researcher of the Year

Prof-M-Haber-WebThe annual Cancer Institute NSW’s Premier’s Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research were awarded last Friday evening at Sydney Town Hall and we are extremely proud to announce that ACRF Medical Research Advisory Committee member Professor Michelle Haber AM has been awarded the Outstanding Cancer Researcher Award for 2014. 

This prestigious award honours an individual who has made significant and fundamental contributions to any field of cancer research in NSW, and comes with a prize of $50,000 to further the recipient’s research endeavours.

Professor Haber is the Executive Director of the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia, and has previously been awarded the Excellence in Translational Research Award at the Premier’s Awards in 2012. She is internationally recognised for her world-class research into the treatment of neuroblastoma and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in children.

We are very proud to count Professor Haber as a member of the ACRF Medical Research Advisory Committee. Committee members are cancer scientists of the highest national and, in many cases, global repute.

They are leaders in Australian cancer research and advise the ACRF on applications received for ACRF grants funding, making recommendations to the Board of Trustees of ACRF as to where grants should be awarded for maximum impact and innovation in cancer prevention, diagnosis and cure.

Excellence in children’s cancer research was further recognised on the night with the Premier’s Rising Star Award and the Outstanding Cancer Research Fellow of the Year going to members of the Kids Cancer Alliance.

Associate Professor Georgina Long from the Melanoma Institute Australia was awarded the Wildfire Award, and collaborations working in haematological clinical research and asbestos research were also acknowledged for their efforts in their fields.

Australian researchers uncover a new gene in the battle against neuroblastoma

tao-research-mainResearchers at the ACRF-funded Children’s Cancer Institute Australia have made an important discovery in the battle against neuroblastoma – one of the most aggressive forms of childhood cancer.

The Institute’s work, published in the prestigious US Journal of the National Cancer Institute, has uncovered a gene linked to the cause of neuroblastoma that could lead to the development of new targeted therapy and change the way the cancer is treated.

It shows that a new long noncoding or ‘junk’ RNA (a type of molecule) plays a critical part in neuroblastoma tumour formation. This study, led by Dr Tao Liu, Group Leader for Histone Modification at CCI, is the first time that it have been discovered that a long noncoding RNA can impact the progression of neuroblastoma.

This discovery could help develop new treatments for the disease, which has a much smaller survival rate compared to other childhood cancers. Currently, neuroblastoma is often diagnosed once the cancer is already advanced and has a survival rate of only 50%.

“Dr Liu’s study has improved our understanding of what leads to the development of neuroblastoma, and uncovered another potential target for this rare but devastating disease,” said Children’s Cancer Institute’s Head of Translational Research, Prof Glenn Marshall AM.

“Side-effects associated with conventional chemotherapy used to treat kids with cancer are a significant clinical problem. Research results such as these will help us discover new treatments, specifically designed for children, to ensure they experience the highest possible quality of life – and support further work to uncover other junk DNA targets for cancer therapy.”

Watch the ABC News report on this important discovery.

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Top Australian researchers bid for ACRF grants

Millions of dollars in ACRF funding will soon be awarded to Australia’s top cancer research teams, with this week heralding our final stage of assessments.

Today and tomorrow, lead researchers from five shortlisted institutes will meet with the ACRF’s esteemed Advisory Committee (which is chaired by Professor Ian Frazer AC) for the final interviews which will ultimately determine the successful research teams.

Shortlisted applicants include two institutes from Sydney: the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia, and the Children’s Medical Research Institute, as well as the QIMR Berghofer Cancer Research Institute in Brisbane, the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute in Adelaide, and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Melbourne.

Continue reading “Top Australian researchers bid for ACRF grants”

Aussie researchers find genetic cause to the most common form of childhood cancer

Australian researchers have uncovered the first ever genetic marker specific to acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common childhood cancer.

Cancer scientists at the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA) and Sydney Children’s Hospital, along with a worldwide team of researchers, discovered the genetic link by studying families in which multiple cases of ALL have been diagnosed.

Dr David Ziegler, Clinical Research Fellow at CCIA, paediatric oncologist at Sydney Children’s Hospital and lead Australian author of the research paper said, “Leukaemia cells often contain many different genetic mutations, making it difficult to detect which ones actually cause the leukaemia.”

Continue reading “Aussie researchers find genetic cause to the most common form of childhood cancer”

Rosebank College visits CCIA to learn how we are helping to fight cancer

In celebration of National Science Week, we recently welcomed the year 11 Rosebank Biology class to the ACRF Drug Discovery Lab at the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA).

This educational tour allowed the students to get up-close with the cutting-edge technologies used inside a real laboratory, while meeting some of Australia’s best cancer scientists who are making amazing progress in the fight against children’s cancers.

The day started off with a very insightful presentation by Dr Eddy Pasquier who discussed his expertise and passion for cancer research, especially in the field of Neuroblastoma.

Continue reading “Rosebank College visits CCIA to learn how we are helping to fight cancer”

Millions in private funding for top cancer research projects in Australia

Five of the best cancer research projects in the world stand to receive millions of dollars in funding,  following the Australian Cancer Research Foundation’s announcement today of its  shortlist for 2013 research grants.

From twelve research proposals, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) has shortlisted five for further assessment as a result of the world-class standard of proposed works, and the significant potential for this research to achieve major breakthroughs in cancer diagnosis, treatment and cure.

Continue reading “Millions in private funding for top cancer research projects in Australia”

Our shortlist of the most innovative cancer research projects in Australia

The ACRF is very excited with the quality of the five shortlisted applications for our grants in 2013. Some of the very best researchers in the world feature in these applications.

These final five applications represent a need for more than $20 million in advanced technologies and facilities. They cover many types of cancer, not just one or two.

Our highly esteemed Medical Research Advisory Committee selected these particular projects for further review on two grounds – the world-class standard of the proposed research, and the potential to achieve major breakthroughs in cancer diagnosis, treatment and cure.

That committee, led by Professor Ian Frazer, will now, through a detailed interview process,  recommend to our Board the best of the best for ACRF funding. The final awardees will be publicly announced on 13 November this year.

Every dollar we receive in donations this year will go to research that has the power to beat cancer. Please peruse the below, to find out where ACRF donations could be making a difference very soon.

Continue reading “Our shortlist of the most innovative cancer research projects in Australia”

Childhood neuroblastoma treatment enhanced with high blood pressure ‘beta-blockers’

An ‘old’ drug which is normally used to treat high blood pressure in adults could bring new hope to children with Neuroblastoma, researchers from the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia have discovered.

Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops from nerve cells left over from a baby’s development in the womb, predominantly affecting very young children – between 0 and 5 years old.

But researchers conducting pre-clinical trials at CCIA (a world-class facility that the ACRF is proud to have funded via a $3.1m grant) have combined standard chemotherapy with beta-blockers to successfully enhance the effectiveness of the chemotherapy – paving the way towards better treatment outcomes, and decreased treatment doses for these young children. Their study has been published in the prestigious British Journal of Cancer. Continue reading “Childhood neuroblastoma treatment enhanced with high blood pressure ‘beta-blockers’”

Aussie researchers' ‘magic bullet’ gives new hope to children who relapse from blood cancer

Cancer scientists at the prestigious Children’s Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA) have discovered that an existing drug being trialled for adult cancer treatment also has the potential to treat children who relapse from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), one of the most common types of paediatric blood cancers.

The current survival rate for children diagnosed with the ALL is 80 per cent, however if a child relapses this survival rate decreases to just 20 per cent.

“What is so exciting about this drug is it has the potential to not only improve the survival rate of children who have relapsed but, since it acts as a ‘magic bullet’, it only targets the cancer cells, leaving the healthy cells untouched!” explains Professor Lock, Head of the Leukaemia Biology Program at CCIA.

Dr David Ziegler, paediatric oncologist with the Sydney Children’s Hospital, said “Our patients and their parents can’t afford to wait years to have new treatments developed. We plan to start a clinical trial of this new therapy for children with leukaemia by the end of this year.”

Continue reading “Aussie researchers' ‘magic bullet’ gives new hope to children who relapse from blood cancer”

Aussie scientists lead the way in improving Leukaemia survival rates

A ten-year clinical trial has seen survival rates in children with the most common form of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), double to 70%.

The study gives new hope to children with a high-risk of relapse, based on the results of a novel test developed by scientists at the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA) – a recipient of over $3.2 million in ACRF funding.

The test works by detecting Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) in the bone marrow of children with ALL. It identifies patients who (despite appearances) are not responding to treatment as well as others, allowing clinicians to reassess their treatment options and maximise the patient’s chance of a full recovery.

“The MRD test can detect one leukaemia cell among 100,000 healthy cells in the bone marrow, and this allows clinicians to tailor a child’s treatment,” said Professor Glenn Marshall, Head of Translational Research at CCIA (and Director of the Kids Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick). Continue reading “Aussie scientists lead the way in improving Leukaemia survival rates”

New childhood cancer research could help prevent 50% of cases

A new discovery could lead to preventative treatments for embryonal cancer cells which are responsible for more than half of all childhood cancers.

Typically, only 20% of the embryonal cells created in the womb survive after birth to form nerve tissue in a baby’s body. The rest die off before the child is born.

However, sometimes excess cells survive and develop into cancers.

Under the leadership of Professor Glenn Marshall, Head of Translational Research and Molecular Carcinogenesis at the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA), researchers have investigated this occurrence, focusing on the most common solid tumour cancer in early childhood – neuroblastoma. Continue reading “New childhood cancer research could help prevent 50% of cases”

ACRF grant recipients receive NSW Premier's praise

Researchers from three ACRF-funded cancer research centres have received accolades at the 2012 NSW Premier’s Awards for outstanding cancer research.

Hosted by the Cancer Institute NSW, the awards honour the work of the State’s most innovative and dynamic cancer researchers, and so we congratulate these esteemed scientists:

1. Excellence in Translational Research
Professors Michelle Haber, Glenn Marshall, and Murray Norris – Children’s Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA) for Medical Research

This team from CCIA (a recipient of two ACRF grants totaling $3.6m) have been acknowledged for their ground-breaking work in testing children with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) and improving survival rates. Their minimal residual disease testing (MRD) can predict which children suffering ALL are at the highest risk of relapse on standard therapy, triggering individualised treatment to commence at earlier stages.

Continue reading “ACRF grant recipients receive NSW Premier's praise”

Breakthrough in lung cancer research

Researchers at the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA) are using the ACRF Drug Discovery Centre for Childhood Cancer to enhance a recent breakthrough in lung cancer research.

Every year more than 9,000 Australians are diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. It is one of the most lethal forms of cancer. But while looking for ways to treat childhood solid cancer tumours, CCIA found a promising new therapy technique for lung cancer patients in Australia and throughout the world.

Continue reading “Breakthrough in lung cancer research”

ACRF Drug Discovery Centre update

Researchers at the ACRF Drug Discovery Centre, located in the Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia (CCIA), are now screening the most promising drugs in the treatment for childhood cancers with a one of a kind robot funded by the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF).

Coinciding with International Childhood Cancer Awareness Day, today’s announcement of the first drug screening at CCIA using this new technology is a huge step in personalised medicine and revolutionising the development of treatments for children’s cancers. Continue reading “ACRF Drug Discovery Centre update”

Help fund the research of today that will help the cancer patients of tomorrow

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) wants to fund even more groundbreaking cancer research and is aiming to raise $750,000 in its 2010 Christmas Appeal, says the Foundation’s Chief Executive David Brettell.

Continue reading “Help fund the research of today that will help the cancer patients of tomorrow”

New era of personalised medicine

Chairman of the Australian Cancer Research Foundation Tom Dery said findings from the recently opened $3.1 ACRF Drug Discovery Centre would lead to a new era of personalised medicine.

“Personalised medicine is the future of cancer therapy,” Mr Dery said.

“The days of the one-size-fits-all approach to medicine will soon be over, thanks to the work of researchers at facilities such as the ACRF Drug Discovery Centre.

“Targeted drug treatments can ensure fewer long term side effects and better results, and that’s the kind of outcome that motivates the people who so kindly donate to the Australian Cancer Research Foundation,” he said. Continue reading “New era of personalised medicine”

Childhood cancer on notice

Official opening of the new ACRF Drug Discovery Centre

iStock_000000735381XSmall_two-hands-clasping-in-hospital-300x235“Tonight, together, we have put childhood cancer on notice.

“Tonight, we have glimpsed a not to distant future where no child who has cancer need suffer,” declared Bob Muscat, chairman of the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia at the August 19 launch of the $3.1m ACRF Drug Discovery Centre.

Mr Muscat joined University of New South Wales chancellor David Gonski, Children’s Cancer Institute Australia executive director Michelle Haber, CCIA founder Jack Kassas, and Australian Cancer Research Foundation chairman Tom Dery to officially open the new ACRF-funded facilities at the CCIA, part of the Lowy Cancer Research Centre at UNSW.

The ACRF Drug Discovery Centre will develop new and improved treatments for childhood cancers.

It houses customised technology that enables one year’s medical research to be done in just a few days. Continue reading “Childhood cancer on notice”

ACRF's $3.1 million launch

A $3.1 million ACRF Drug Discovery Centre for Childhood Cancer opens on Thursday August 19.

The new facility at the Children’s Cancer Research Institute Australia – part of the recently opened Lowy Cancer Research Centre at University of New South Wales – houses the only drug screening robot in Australia. It’s innovative technology can do a year’s research in just one day and the Centre marks a new era in the development of personalised medicine. On average three children in Australia die every week from cancer.

The ACRF Drug Discovery Centre for Childhood Cancer aims to change this.

UNSW Chancellor, David Gonski, ACRF Chairman, Tom Dery, Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia Executive Director, Professor Michelle Haber and CCIA Chairman, Bob Muscat will speak at the launch.

Click Here for ACRF Drug Discovery Centre for Childhood Cancer Media Release.

Breakthrough invention will reduce chemo hit-and-miss

Four years ago ACRF awarded $500,000 to a University of NSW research team led by Professor Philip Hogg at Children’s Cancer Institute Australia. The funding established the CCIA Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) Drug Discovery Program.

In 2007, Professor Hogg, a member of ACRF’s Medical Research Advisory Committee, developed technology that can indicate whether chemotherapy treatment is working in solid tumour cancers such as colon, bowel, breast, prostate and lung cancer.

“The ACRF state-of-the-art laboratory played a critical role in the development of an imaging agent which will show whether chemotherapy treatment is effective,” Prof. Hogg explained.

In explaining the potential impact of this major breakthrough, Prof. Hogg noted that 11 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed globally each year, with standard treatments being chemotherapy and radiotherapy and, if discovered early enough, surgery. There is currently no non-invasive way to measure death of cancer cells, he said.

“A major challenge facing doctors is being able to assess – in real time and after one or two treatments – whether a course of chemotherapy or radiotherapy is working or not,” Prof. Hogg said.

“With this new agent cancer patients will not have to waste time and edure the side-effects of an ineffective treatment.”