An initiative aimed at improving outcomes for children with the most difficult-to-treat cancer has received a $20m pledge from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The Zero Childhood Cancer program sees scientists teaming up with doctors to develop treatment plans specifically tailored to each child’s individual disease.
Tissue samples taken from children diagnosed with cancer are analysed to determine their genetics and the best treatment, to improve their chances of recovery and survival.
The program is being led by UNSW Conjoint Professors Michelle Haber and Glenn Marshall from the Children's Cancer Institute, located at UNSW's Lowy Cancer Research Centre.
The combination of the big brains and big hearts, that’s what’s so inspiring here – so much passion and intelligence and so much preparedness to strike out into new frontiers.
“The combination of the big brains and big hearts, that’s what’s so inspiring here - so much passion and intelligence and so much preparedness to strike out into new frontiers,” Prime Minister Turnbull said.
“What you are doing is securing our future, changing lives and creating a fairer and better society. We are with you in total solidary.”
Executive Director of the Children’s Cancer Institute Professor Haber AM said the funding is critical to build the research infrastructure needed to deliver the benefits that Zero Childhood Cancer will bring for children with the highest-risk cancers.
“We are delighted by the funding commitment the Prime Minister has announced today,” she said.
Despite the dramatic increase in childhood cancer survival rates over the last sixty years, from virtually 0% to 80%, nearly three Australian children and adolescents still die each week of cancer and 950 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer each year in Australia.
Seventy percent of childhood cancer survivors experience significant side effects from their treatment which may be life-long.
Professor Glenn Marshall AM, Director of the Kid’s Cancer Centre at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick and Head of Translational Research at Children’s Cancer Institute, said the network of clinical and research partners across Australia will be significantly boosted by the funding commitment announced today in Sydney.
“This personalised medicine initiative is the epitome of research translated into clinical practice – true bench to bedside science. The Program is running a pilot study this year with a national clinical trial planned for next year,” said Marshall.
Read the full Children’s Cancer Institute media release here.