Brilliant minds are working hard to find a cure for cancer. The Children’s Cancer Foundation has prioritised clinical research and clinical trials – these are key to developing new and kinder treatments. The Foundation has committed $6.2 million over 10 years from 2013 to attract the world’s best childhood cancer clinical researchers and build a significant program of clinical research.
The Foundation has also invested close to $1.3 million on supporting hospital clinical trials staff. Multiple new cancer drugs are emerging for adults, many of which are relevant to childhood cancer. A clinical trial, considered by hospitals as ‘research‘, is the first opportunity for a child to be treated with a new cancer drug. Hospitals do not fund clinical trial research and the cost of these trials, such as staff salaries, is funded almost exclusively by philanthropy.
Here are some examples of clinical research we are currently funding:
Recent advances in genomic techniques are driving the development of treatment programs customised to the individual child based on the characteristics of their personal cancer (or the molecular and genetic disruptions that have occurred in their bodies). Through genomic analysis we can understand the characteristics of individual cancers and define how these respond to different forms of treatment. Associate Professor Paul Ekert is Head of Molecular Diagnostics at The Royal Children’s Hospital / Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. His research appointment in March 2014 – funded by the Children's Cancer Foundation in partnership with the Steven Walter Children’s Cancer Foundation – has positively changed the treatment pathway of at least 12 children.
Immunotherapy clinical trial:
For years, the only methods of treating cancer were surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Recently, treatments have evolved towards targeted immunotherapies – therapy that utilises the patient’s immune system to combat cancer. Lymphocytes are withdrawn from a patient, modified in a culture to boost their tumour-fighting ability, and then re-infused in the patient. Treatments using these genetically engineered immune cells have generated remarkable responses. In 2016, The Royal Children’s Hospital opened this trial for relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukaemia patients, available outside of the US for the first time. The Children's Cancer Foundation is funding critical staff resources for the trial.