What is the aim of the trial?
The aim of ZERO is to find out whether analysing each individual child’s cancer in the laboratory can help us find the best treatment for each child.
We look closely at your child’s tumour sample (including the genes and other types of molecules inside the cancer cells) to see if we can find out which treatment may be best suited to your child – the one that is most likely to work.
Is my child eligible for the trial?
To be eligible for the trial, children need to meet certain criteria. For example, they need to have certain types and stages of cancer, and have tissue samples available for testing in the laboratory. All clinical trials have strict rules. This is to make sure their results provide very clear evidence about whether the tests or drugs that are being trialled have been clinically effective (i.e. have improved health outcomes for patients).
Currently, children who are eligible for the trial are those with ‘high risk’ cancers – the most aggressive cancers that are not responding to therapy at diagnosis or relapse, and therefore have a less than 30% chance of survival. While we are eager to be able to help every child with cancer in the future, our focus is currently on those children with the greatest need. Soon we will begin to expand the trial, and are aiming for ZERO to be available to every Australian child with cancer by 2023.
To find out if your child is eligible to join the trial at this time, please speak to your child’s oncologist.
Will my child get access to experimental drugs?
ZERO is not a drug trial – it is a trial to find out whether studying the genes and other molecules inside a child’s cancer can help us find the best possible treatment for that child.
In some cases, it may be that the recommended treatment is an experimental drug. If this is the case for your child, your child’s treating doctor will discuss this with you, and you can decide whether you want to go ahead with that treatment recommendation or not.
How can I enrol my child?
If you would like your child to take part in the trial, please see your treating oncologist. They will talk to you about whether your child is eligible to enrol.
What are the risks? Could my child be worse-off if they take part?
There are risks in any clinical trial − these will be explained to you before your child is enrolled. Research shows that children on clinical trials generally have better outcomes than those who are not on trials. While we cannot guarantee a better outcome for any individual child on the Zero Childhood Cancer Program’s national clinical trial, we can reassure you that if your child participates, they will continue to receive the best possible standard of care.
If your child takes part in the trial, they may need additional tests, such as an extra biopsy or blood test. If a particular treatment is recommended for your child, you will have the opportunity to decide whether you want to go ahead with the treatment or not. At that time, your child’s oncologist will explain the potential risks and benefits, so you can make an informed choice.
My child doesn’t meet the eligibility criteria, can I just pay for the service?
Children can only participate in the Zero Childhood Cancer Program if they meet strict eligibility criteria. This is because it is a clinical trial and a research program. If you have any questions about this, please talk to your treating oncologist.
Will my child need to have extra tests or procedures?
An additional biopsy may need to be taken so a fresh sample of tumour can be provided for the laboratory testing, but this will be discussed with you. You will always be involved in the decision making.
What has happened so far in the Zero Childhood Cancer Program?
The Zero Childhood Cancer Program began in 2015. First, a pilot study was run in 58 children being treated for high-risk cancer in New South Wales. Then in September 2017, a national clinical trial was launched. By the end of 2020, over 400 children with high-risk cancers from all over Australia will have been enrolled on the national clinical trial.
Will my child be able to get treated at our local oncology centre?
Yes, the clinical trial is open at all Australian paediatric cancer centres. If your child is eligible for ZERO, they can still get treatment at their current treatment centre.
All eight of Australia’s children’s hospitals are participating in ZERO: Sydney Children's Hospital (Randwick), The Children's Hospital at Westmead (Westmead), John Hunter Children's Hospital (Newcastle), Monash Children's Hospital (Clayton), the Royal Children's Hospital (Melbourne), Women’s and Children's Hospital (Adelaide), Queensland Children's Hospital (Brisbane), and Perth Children's Hospital (Perth).
Visit our Research and Clinical Partners page for more information
Is the Zero Childhood Cancer Program only available to children in Australia?
Currently the Zero Childhood Cancer Program is only available in Australia by enrolling in the national clinical trial.
The Zero Childhood Cancer program involves collaboration ((link to ‘Research & Clinical Partners’ page) between clinical and research organisations both in Australia and overseas.
If you have an enquiry about taking part in the Program, regardless of whether your enquiry is domestic or international, please speak to your treating oncologist as your first point of contact.
How much does the Zero Childhood Cancer Program cost parents?
There is no cost to parents of children in Australia who take part in the Program. Children’s Cancer Institute and Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation work hard to raise the funds needed to run the Program and conduct testing for each child.
How do I find out more?
Please contact your child’s treating oncologist to find out more about participating in the Program.