Minderoo Foundation donates $5 million to help beat childhood cancer

Minderoo Foundation has announced a $5 million partnership with the Zero Childhood Cancer program (Zero), which aims to reduce childhood cancer deaths to zero.

The partnership will drive further research into personalised medicine in childhood cancer and provide exciting new options where other treatments have failed in fighting the most aggressive childhood cancers.

Led by Children’s Cancer Institute and the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, Zero is designed to fast track children with high-risk, aggressive cancers into treatment with new drugs specifically tailored for their unique disease. Zero uses extensive and sophisticated genetic testing and analysis to identify the treatments most likely to target and kill each child’s specific cancer - giving them the greatest possible chance of survival.

Two years ago, Jack Burai was diagnosed with a low-grade cancer in the brain (glioma) at just 9 years old. Following surgery his prognosis was good and his parents, Vivian and Alex believed Jack to be cured. A year later Jack relapsed and was in hospital with multiple tumours in his brain and spine, his cancer failed to respond to standard treatment and his condition was rapidly declining. His eyesight was threatened by the build-up of fluid in his brain and he could no longer walk. Jack was enrolled in the Zero Childhood Cancer program, which genetically tested Jack’s cancer and detected a mutation that was believed to be driving the aggressive growth of his cancer. The team identified new therapies uniquely designed to target and kill his tumours. Within 45 days Jack was out of a wheelchair, playing tennis, and doctors believe it’s likely Jack is cured.

May is International Brain Cancer Awareness Month which aims to highlight the fact that more children die from brain cancer than any other cancer. Australian philanthropists Andrew and Nicola Forrest founded Minderoo Foundation in 2001 and, since then, the Foundation has committed $75 million to the fight against cancer through its Eliminate Cancer initiative.

"Cancer has no right to strip children of their bright futures and must be arrested through collaboration and world-class research here in Australia, and around the world,” Mr Forrest said.

“Minderoo is proud to partner with Zero to help realise this.”

The Zero Childhood Cancer Program, which has built a collaborative network of 21 national and international research partners, opened a national clinical trial in September 2017 at all eight children’s hospitals in Australia. In the first 20 months of the trial more than 200 children have been enrolled, with personalised treatments recommendations made for more than 70% of the children and reported to the children’s treating doctors within an average of 9 weeks. More than 400 children are expected to be enrolled in the national trial by September 2020.

"Three children are dying from cancer in Australia every week and Zero Childhood Cancer aims to change this by unlocking each individual child’s cancer and then targeting the therapy to achieve better results. It’s about giving the right drug to the right child at the right time," Said A/Prof Tracey O'Brien

"Jack’s story demonstrates what can be achieved with this approach, it is tomorrow’s care today.”

Vivian Rosati, Jack’s mum said she is “beyond grateful” to the program. “We would like to thank everyone for allowing our son to enter the Zero program which has changed our lives and saved his. Donations like this today means that other families will have the same chance, programs like Zero Childhood Cancer give families hope where there would otherwise be none,” she said.