Children’s cancer on trial
CANCER treatment for all sufferers, including children, could be revolutionised by a clinical trial for Australia’s sickest kids starting today.
The Zero Childhood Cancer initiative will start a national trial with 400 terminally ill kids from today providing personalised cancer treatment based on genetic screening of individual cancer cells and tumours.
Scientists from 13 leading Australian and international research institutes and doctors from all eight of Australia’s children’s cancer centres will work to identify and recommend treatment options.
Children’s tumour samples will have complex testing and analysis, and then be tested against hundreds of anticancer drugs to see which treatments will work best for each child’s cancer.
Children with the most aggressive cancers with a less than 30 per cent survival rate will be chosen to take part in the national trial.
Researchers hope the $40 million initiative will pave the way for fighting cancer for all sufferers.
Three children and adolescents die every week in Australia from cancer, despite survival rates over the past 60 years increasing dramatically.
Michelle Haber, executive director of the Children’s Can- cer Institute and research lead on the trial, said this was the “most exciting cancer initiative” she had known.
“There has never been anything on this scale in terms of collaboration and complexity and something that will genuinely change the model of care for those at most serious risk,” Professor Haber said.
She said this had the potential to not only find more effective treatments but also to prevent cancer.
“We see this study as having extraordinary potential not only in respect to the outcome for the 400 children on this trial but ultimately this will have a role in prevention and treatment of cancer for adults and children,” Prof Haber said.
“If we are mapping the genetic sequences of these cancers and the patients, we can see what genetic markers may have led to that person developing the cancer.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Government was providing $20 million to support the Zero Cancer Initiative.
“[This] program brings together the brightest minds from research and puts Australia at the forefront of innovation in health care globally,” Mr Hunt said.
“It’s an exciting time for medical research in Australia and some of the brightest minds in the world are working right here in Australia to find a cure for cancer.”