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31 August 2018

Media Release: 'Zero Childhood Cancer' Clinical Trial Delivers Results Within its First 11 Months

The Zero Childhood Cancer program has today released initial results of its national clinical trial, revealing promising outcomes within its first 11 months.

Of the 129 children enrolled in the trial from across Australia with high-risk and relapsed cancers, 67% were provided with personalised treatment plans aimed at killing their unique cancer cells. For most children enrolled in the trial, there were otherwise few to no treatment options available to them.

Led by Children's Cancer Institute and the Kids’ Cancer Centre at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick, Zero Childhood Cancer is one of the world’s most comprehensive child cancer personalised medicine studies. The trial uses sophisticated genetic tests to scientifically analyse each child’s individual cancer cells to identify and recommend new personalised treatment options.

Associate Professor Tracey O’Brien, Director, Kid’s Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick says the trial is giving a small group of children a better chance of survival, where current treatment affords little hope.

“Zero Childhood Cancer is about using the best science we have to give hope to children with high risk cancer. We must try a different approach. Accepting the status quo means that 70% of these children won’t survive to celebrate another birthday,” Associate Professor O’Brien said.

 “Our early results are encouraging and as we learn more, I see future potential for targeted drug therapies to be used more broadly in all child cancers as a smarter way to achieve cure, while minimising therapy side effects.”

Executive Director of Children’s Cancer Institute, Professor Michelle Haber AM, said the Zero Childhood Cancer program is bringing us one step close to personalised medicine for all childhood cancers.

“Zero Childhood Cancer is giving unprecedented genetic and biological information for children with the most aggressive cancers. It is arguably the most comprehensive personalised medicine program for children with cancer in the world,” Professor Haber said.

“The information we gather will not only benefit children on the national clinical trial but will inform new discoveries and further clinical trials that we believe will impact all children with cancer in the future.”

No story exemplifies the impact of Zero Childhood Cancer more than that of Ellie. At just 11 months old, Ellie was diagnosed with infantile fibrosarcoma, a rare and aggressive tumour that was resistant to chemotherapy. The tumour was so large that she was on life support.

Following sequencing of the entire genetic material of Ellie’s tumour through our partnership with the Lions Kids Cancer Genome Project, the whole genome sequencing identified the specific genetic change likely to be driving Ellie’s cancer.  The Zero Childhood Cancer team were then able to identify a new drug that specifically targeted that particular genetic change. The drug was sourced, after four weeks of treatment, Ellie’s cancer had shrunk enough for her to be taken off life support and breathe independently. Six weeks later, Ellie was home.

Ellie’s parents, Mina and Rob, know their daughter is only here today because of the Zero Childhood Cancer program.

 “We were told to think about saying goodbye, she was so sick we didn’t even know if she would reach her first birthday. Now, to be celebrating her second birthday, when she is such an active, boisterous and energetic two-year-old is beyond our wildest dreams. We can’t thank the teams at the hospitals and research centres involved in the Zero Childhood Cancer program enough,” Mina said.

Outcomes of the Zero Childhood Cancer program over the past 11 months:

  • 129 children registered for the trial after just 11 months, each of these are children with an aggressive cancer that is identified as having less than a 30% chance of survival
  • Of these, 36% have been enrolled at the time of relapse, 38% at diagnosis and 26% with progression of disease
  • In terms of cancer types, 36% have brain cancer, 29% sarcoma, 13% leukaemia, 6% neuroblastoma and 16% other rare cancers
  • For 67% of children a personalised treatment plan has been recommended
  • Average turnaround time from receipt of samples to personalised treatment recommendation is 9 weeks

Despite the dramatic increase in childhood cancer survival rates over the last sixty years from virtually 0 to 80%, three children and adolescents still die every week in Australia from cancer.

For more information on Trial outcomes, Ellie’s story and supporters of the Zero Childhood Cancer program please click here.

-ENDS-

Media enquiries:
Children’s Cancer Institute: Tania Ewing, 0408 378 422, taniaewing@taniaewing.com 

About Zero Childhood Cancer

The Zero Childhood Cancer Program is a national initiative of Children’s Cancer Institute and The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network. The Program is led by scientists and clinicians from Children’s Cancer Institute and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick and is one of the most exciting childhood cancer research initiatives ever undertaken in Australia, to tackle the most serious cases of infant, childhood and adolescent cancer. (The clinical trial is open in Sydney with other cities set to open in a staged roll-out over coming months.) Participating hospitals and research centres include:

  • NSW – Children’s Cancer Institute
  • NSW – Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick
  • NSW – The Children’s Hospital at Westmead
  • NSW – John Hunter Children’s Hospital
  • NSW – Children’s Medical Research Institute
  • NSW – Kids Research Institute, Westmead
  • NSW – Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
  • NSW – Prince of Wales Hospital - Hereditary Cancer Clinic
  • NSW - NSW Health Pathology, Prince of Wales Hospital
  • QLD – Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital
  • QLD – The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute
  • SA – Women’s and Children’s Hospital
  • SA – South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute
  • SA – Centre for Cancer Biology
  • VIC – Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne
  • VIC – Monash Children’s Hospital, Clayton
  • VIC – Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute
  • VIC – Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
  • WA – The Perth Children's Hospital, Perth
  • WA – Telethon Kids Cancer Centre, Telethon Kids Institute
  • GERMANY – DKFZ (German Cancer Research Centre), Heidelberg
  • NETHERLANDS - Princess Maxima Centre, Utrecht 
  • FRANCE - Curie Institute, Paris 
  • USA - Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia 
  • USA - St Jude's Children's Research Hospital, Memphis 
  • USA - University of California, San Francisco

For more information, see About Zero Childhood Cancer 

About Children’s Cancer Institute

Originally founded by two fathers of children with cancer in 1976, Children’s Cancer Institute is the only independent medical research institute in Australia wholly dedicated to research into the causes, prevention and cure of childhood cancer. Forty years on, our vision remains unchanged – to save the lives of all children with cancer and to eliminate their suffering. The Institute has grown to now employ more than 220 researchers, operational staff and students, and has established a national and international reputation for scientific excellence. Our focus is on translational research, and we have an integrated team of laboratory researchers and clinician scientists who work together in partnership to discover new treatments which can be progressed from the lab bench to the beds of children on wards in our hospitals as quickly as possible. These new treatments are specifically targeting childhood cancers, so we can develop safer and more effective drugs and drug combinations that will minimise side-effects and ultimately give children with cancer the best chance of a cure with the highest possible quality of life. More at www.ccia.org.au.

About Kids Cancer Centre

The Kids Cancer Centre (KCC) at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick has been treating children with cancer and blood diseases in NSW, Australia and the Asia-Pacific region for nearly 50 years. Almost two thirds of children treated for cancer or leukaemia at the Centre are enrolled on clinical trials, in a unique model where research and clinical care are one, aimed at ensuring the best possible care for children and their families. During that time the survival rates for children with cancer have gone from 10 per cent to nearly 80 per cent. Clinical and research staff from the Centre have made major international and national contributions to the expansion of knowledge in the area: from important discoveries around bone marrow transplantation, chemotherapy for relapsed solid tumours and leukaemia, to the invention of novel anti-cancer drug combinations and minimal residual disease (MRD) testing in ALL. Centre staff have been leaders in devising new methods of outreach and home nursing, and in developing modern approaches to the bereaved family. These achievements have been founded on academic excellence and clinical expertise. In the past five years alone, Centre staff have published over 200 papers in peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals, and have been awarded more than $60 million in competitive grant funding. Over the past 20 years a total of eight clinical staff have received Order of Australia honours for their work http://www.kids-cancer.org/ 

About Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick 

Each year, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick cares for more than 69,000 seriously ill and injured children from across NSW, Australia and beyond in a family-centred, multidisciplinary, expert environment. Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick is one the country’s leading centres in paediatric clinical and research excellence and is part of The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN), the largest network of hospital and services for children in Australia.  For more information visit www.schn.health.nsw.gov.au 

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