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The Research Behind Zero Childhood Cancer

Translational Research

How we go from the lab bench to a child's bedside.

Translational research refers to ‘bench-to-bedside’ research, which means translating findings from fundamental science research into everyday clinical practice to improve human health and well-being. Our focus is on translational research, making sure our discoveries are progressed into actual treatments for kids with cancer as quickly as possible. We seek to discover new treatments specifically designed for children, to develop safer and less toxic drugs and treatment protocols that will minimise side-effects and ultimately give children with cancer the best chance of a cure with the highest possible quality of life.

This approach through the Zero Childhood Cancer program will give children with cancer the highest possible chance of survival and quality of life through individual research on each child’s unique cancer and translating these results back into the clinic in the most effect was to inform treatment decisions. Zero Childhood Cancer brings together all major Australian clinical and research groups working in childhood cancer to form a translational research pipeline that brings research closer to patients than ever before.

“The data we will be gathering and using is exciting in two respects - we will have evidence-based treatment options in the present, and we will be building a powerful research repository for the future.” Professor Glenn Marshall AM

Personalised Medicine

One size doesn't fit all

Personalised medicine – tailoring treatment to suit each individual patient, rather than using the traditional ‘one size fits all’ approach – stands to revolutionise the way childhood cancer is treated. For example two children who have the ‘same’ kind of cancer and who show the same symptoms, may respond very differently to the same anti-cancer drugs.

To tailor treatment in this way, detailed information about each individual’s disease must be gathered. For Zero Childhood Cancer, scientists at Children’s Cancer Institute will analyse cancer cells taken from each high-risk or relapsed child, to identify the precise molecular characteristics and genetic changes that allow that cancer to thrive. We will then screen the cells against hundreds of drugs to find out which drugs are most likely to kill the cancer, and grow the cells in our laboratory models of disease to test if these drugs are indeed effective.

All this information will be made available to a specialised team of clinicians and scientists, who will use it to develop and deliver the most effective treatment plans, specifically tailored to suit each child’s individual disease. By using personalised medicine, the goal of Zero Childhood Cancer is to treat each child’s cancer in the most targeted way possible, to improve survival, reduce side effects, and aim for a cure for every child.

“As the program is implemented, and as we gather more information, we hope to get better and better at identifying the most effective treatment for each child’s cancer. By 2020, we aim to be in a position to offer personalised medicine to every Australian child diagnosed with high-risk or relapsed cancer.”   Professor Michelle Haber AM