Health Ministers launch Zero Childhood Cancer clinical trial

On Monday, 18 September, the Federal Minister for Health and NSW Minister for Health attended Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick for the launch of the Zero Childhood Cancer clinical trial.

Personalised medicine for childhood cancers in Australia is a step closer thanks to the Zero Childhood Cancer program’s national clinical trial launched. Zero Childhood Cancer is one of the world’s most comprehensive child cancer personalised medicine studies, and is led by the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick and Children's Cancer Institute.

In an Australian first, scientists from thirteen leading Australian and international research institutes and doctors from all eight of Australia’s kids’ cancer centres, including Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick and The Children's Hospital at Westmead, will work together to identify and recommend new treatment options. These will be specifically tailored to suit the individual cancers of children with the highest risk of treatment failure or relapse and give their families hope.

The Zero Childhood Cancer program recognises that each child’s cancer is unique, so they respond differently to anti-cancer treatment. Detailed laboratory analysis of tumour samples will help identify the drugs most likely to kill each child’s specific cancer.

The national clinical trial builds on a successful NSW pilot study of nearly 60 children begun in late 2015 for children with the most aggressive cancers whose chance of survival on standard treatments was less than 30%. The pilot study proved the program’s feasibility, successfully putting in place the complex logistics and laboratory testing needed to analyse patient tumours and get meaningful results back to doctors in real-time.

The clinical trial expands the program to give hope to families across the country and will enrol more than 400 Australian children over the next three years, bringing the most advanced diagnostic technologies close to home. The clinical trial is open in Sydney with other cities set to open in a staged roll-out over coming months.

“The Turnbull Government is providing $20 million to support this Australian-first clinical trial for kids with the most aggressive cancers. The Zero Childhood Cancer program brings together the brightest minds from research and puts Australia at the forefront of innovation in health care globally. 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,” said the Hon. Greg Hunt, Federal Minister for Health.

A/Professor Tracey O'Brien, Director of the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick said the challenge in curing every child is that each child’s cancer is unique.

“I truly believe the Zero Childhood Cancer program is a potential game-changer in how we treat high-risk cancer. As the Zero Childhood Cancer program is implemented, and as we gather more information, we will improve our capacity to identify the most effective treatment for each child’s cancer,” she said.

“The information we gather will benefit children on the program first and foremost but will also be incorporated into future frontline treatments. The knowledge gained is likely to unlock further scientific discoveries that will also ultimately benefit future patients. Most of all, it will bring us a step closer to our vision of one day curing all children of cancer.”

Of the over 950 Australian children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer each year, 150 are diagnosed with cancer types with less than a 30% survival rate, and a further 60 relapse and then have less than a 30% chance of cure. It’s these children – including those suffering from aggressive brain tumours, sarcomas, infant leukaemias and neuroblastomas - who will benefit from the Zero Childhood Cancer Program. The trial will be open to every Australian child with high-risk childhood cancer regardless of the underlying type/diagnosis.

The Zero Childhood Cancer national clinical trial will run until at least 2019. The data gathered will enable evidence-based treatment options in the present, and build a powerful research repository for the future. Data from the program will be shared with all clinical and research partners around Australia, in Europe and USA.

The program is free to children who meet the clinical trial enrolment criteria and enrolment is through their treating oncologist. The trial is sponsored by the Australian and New Zealand Children’s Haematology/Oncology Group (ANZCHOG).

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