Chil­dren’s cancer on trial

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWSFRONT - LANAI SCARR

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.”

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