World-leading precision medicine program for childhood cancers in Australia

Health Industry Hub | May 4, 2020 |

Medical News: The Australian Government, together with the Minderoo Foundation, will provide $67 million to ensure every child in Australia with cancer will have access to precision medicine.

This joint investment through the Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and the Minderoo Foundation, Chaired by Dr Andrew Forrest, will extend and expand the ground-breaking Zero Childhood Cancer National Precision Medicine Program.

All Australian children and young adults diagnosed with cancer will now have access to genomically guided, precision treatments through this world leading collaborative research and clinical program.

The $54.8 million investment from the Government’s MRFF Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research Initiative, will support the expansion of the program from approximately 150 children per year to 1,000 children per year.

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In making the announcement, Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the Zero Childhood Cancer program is the first large-scale Australian study aiming to provide personalised treatments for kids based on in-depth knowledge of their individual cancer.

“Cancer is always a devastating diagnosis. Each year, about 750 children aged 14 or less are diagnosed with cancer in Australia,” Minister Hunt said.

“Many of these children have cancers that are very difficult to treat and have a less than 30% survival rate.”

“If your child is battling cancer, you want to know that the latest research is translating into effective treatment as fast as possible, with many experts working together to achieve one common goal, save lives,” Minister Hunt said.

Minderoo Foundation Chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest AO, said supporting innovative programs such as ZERO was an important part of the Foundation’s work.

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“The vision of the Zero Childhood Cancer program is simple and inspiring: reduce childhood cancer deaths to zero,” Dr Forrest said.

“Over the last twelve months, we’ve seen ZERO achieve incredible breakthroughs in the fight against cancer. Minderoo Foundation is pleased the program will soon be available to all Aussie kids and their families.”

Led by the Kids Cancer Centre and the Children’s Cancer Institute, both located at Sydney Children’s Hospital, this initiative brings together major research and clinical groups working in children’s cancer around the country.

Children with cancer will receive free profiling of their cancer cells. Researchers use this information to build a medical understanding of the genetic and biological causes of childhood cancers and test new therapies that will help find the most effective treatment for each individual child.

Children with cancer are ideal candidates to benefit from a personalised medicine approach because the genetic mutations that cause cancer in children are often unique, and current treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be toxic with severe side effects, which can be hard for children to bear.

Professor Michelle Haber AM, Executive Director of Children’s Cancer Institute explained the impact of this funding.

“This funding will not only help us to identify personalised therapies for many more children with cancer throughout Australia, but also to identify new genetic targets and potential new treatments for children with cancer, and to understand why children develop cancer and which particular children may be at risk,” Professor Haber said.

“The research that this funding will allow us to conduct with the data that is collected will increase early intervention and our ability to improve control and ultimately prevention of this devastating disease.”

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