Brave brother steps up to help little Ava
A new national cancer treatment trial based on genetic screening will bring hope for hundreds of terminally ill children and their families, as reports.
CANCER treatment for all sufferers, including children, could be revolutionised by a new clinical trial for Australia’s sickest kids that starts today.
The Zero Childhood Cancer initiative will begin a national trial as 400 terminally ill kids are provided with personalised cancer treatment based on genetic screening of individual cancer cells and tumours.
In an Australian first, scientists from 13 Australian and international research institutes and doctors from all eight of Australia’s kids’ cancer centres will work together to identify and recommend new treatment options.
Children’s tumour samples will undergo complex testing and analysis, and then be tested against hundreds of anticancer drugs to see which treatments will work best for each child’s unique 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.
It builds on the successful NSW pilot with 60 children that began in 2015.
Researchers hope the $40 million initiative will pave the way for a new way of fighting cancer for not just children but all those who are struck down by the big C.
Three children and adolescents die every week in Australia from cancer, despite survival rates over the last 60 years increasing dramatically.
Michelle Haber, executive Director of the Children’s Cancer Institute and research lead on the trial said this was the “most exciting cancer initiative” she had ever 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 better more effective treatments for cancer but also to prevent cancer in the first place.
“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.”
“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 in the first place.”
Tracey O’Brien, director of the Kids Cancer Centre at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, said the Zero Childhood Cancer trial was the frontline in the “all-out war on cancer”.
“As we recognise, every child different, every single cancer is unique, too,” Professor O’Brien said.
“Cancer treatments are generally poisons and if we can better understand the genetics of a particular cancer and target treatments, we can save lives but also give better quality of life by reducing the side effects of the treatments currently given.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Turnbull 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.
Michael Osborn, Haematologist at the Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital, said this would give families back hope with better treatments for their children.
“The Women’s and Children’s Hospital haematology and oncology team is extremely proud to be a partner in the Zero Childhood Cancer national personalised medicine program, and look forward to bringing this exciting initiative to South Australian children with cancer,” Dr Osborn said. LITTLE fighter. The 12-month-old was diagnosed with high-risk infantile acute lymphoblastic leukaemia this year at just eight months of age.
A persistent middle ear infection and issues with feeding turned into the Polzin family’s worst nightmare; cancer for their baby girl.
Next month, Ava’s 10year-old brother Blake will bravely donate his bone marrow to give his little sister a better shot at life.
But it might not be enough and Ava’s cancer has a less than 30 per cent survival rate, with chemo treatments so far taking a heavy toll.
“It’s been really, really tough and the chemo in particular has been quite intense for her and for us,” mother Sherie, 35, said. Ava Polzin is a
“Ava has a one in three chance that a bone-marrow transplant won’t work but we’re hoping that given Blake is a sibling donor, she’ll have a better chance.”
Ms Polzin said that in the heartbreaking scenario that Ava doesn’t respond to the bone marrow transplant, an initiative like the Zero Childhood Cancer national trial would give the family back some hope.
Doctors had thought initial rounds of chemotherapy had stemmed Ava’s cancer but it just continued to return.
“I think it would help immensely to have individualised treatment and target her treatment to her own individual needs,” Ms Polzin said.
“It would be really helpful especially for high-risk patients like Ava where their survival rate is not as good.”
HOPE: Ava, her mother Sherie, father David and brother Blake, 10. Picture: TROY SNOOK