Our story

Children’s Cancer Institute, originally known as The Children’s Leukaemia and Cancer Foundation, was established in May 1976 by a dedicated group of parents and doctors treating children with cancer.

Our story began in 1975 with two families whose lives had been thrown into chaos: the Lough family from New South Wales, and the Kasses family from Queensland. Two-year-old Robbie Lough and 6-year-old Helen Kasses had both been diagnosed with leukaemia and were being treated at Sydney Children’s Hospital.

While it was clear that the doctors were doing all they could to help the children in their care, it seemed that very little research into childhood cancer was being done anywhere in Australia. With hundreds of children being diagnosed every year, and only half being cured, the need for more research was clear.

Children's Cancer Institute was founded by two dads, Jack Kasses and John Lough, in 1976.

John Lough (Robbie’s father) approached his local club, the Apex Club in Wollongong, to ask if they would raise funds for childhood cancer research. They agreed, and a national fundraising campaign − ‘Help a Kid Make It’ − was launched with a target of $1 million. In just one year the Apex clubs nationally raised $1.3M and our first research unit, ‘The Apex Centre’, opened in 1984.

Since that time, our organisation has grown to employ over 300 researchers, students and operational staff and has established an international reputation for research excellence. We have made world-first discoveries, become an international leader in personalised medicine for children with cancer and directly contributed to improving survival rates.

The first scientists to open the lab door in 1984 were Professor Michelle Haber AM (left, now Executive Director), Professor Murray Norris (centre, now Deputy Director) and Professor Maria Kavallaris (right, now Head of Theme, Translational Cancer Nanomedicine).

Childhood cancer used to be a death sentence. Today, thanks to medical research, the survival rate is over 80 per cent. Yet nearly three children each week are still dying from cancer. These are the children we are determined to save.

We remain the only independent medical research institute in the country wholly dedicated to curing childhood cancer. And our future is looking bright, with our new home - Australia’s first-ever Children’s Comprehensive Cancer Centre - soon to be constructed on the Randwick Health and Innovation Precinct.

This world-class facility will allow for the seamless integration of research and clinical care, to accelerate the implementation of new discoveries into standard of care for children with cancer, that will move us closer than ever towards achieving our vision of one day curing every child of cancer. 

Your donation will fund research that will save young lives!