Vanessa Tyrrell joined Children’s Cancer Institute in 2015 to drive the development and implementation of the Zero Childhood Cancer Program, having worked across all aspects of diagnostic genetics for the previous 25 years.
Vanessa is best known for her leadership in and representation of the Australian human genetics community as genetics has grown to revolutionise healthcare globally. She has actively contributed to state, federal, and professional bodies’ advisory committees and is currently Vice President of the Human Genetics Society of Australasia.
ZERO is Australia’s first personalised medicine program for children with high-risk or relapsed cancer. Led jointly by Children’s Cancer Institute and Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, the program involves collaboration between all major Australian clinical and research groups working in childhood cancer.
‘ZERO is a game-changer in the care of child cancers,’ says Vanessa. ‘It is blazing a trail for the use of precision medicine in mainstream healthcare to improve health outcomes for children and adults alike.’
From 2015-2017, Vanessa coordinated the successful completion of a two-year pilot feasibility study, during which time all of ZERO’s testing platforms, pipelines and logistics were evaluated and validated. In September 2017, the ZERO national clinical trial was launched, involving children with high-risk cancers at all eight child oncology centres across Australia over a 3-year period. The announcement in April 2020 of joint funding by the Australian Government and the Minderoo Foundation led to the extension of ZERO which, by 2023, will become available to all Australian children diagnosed with cancer.
As well as ensuring the efficient, effective, and clinically responsible delivery of all aspects of ZERO, Vanessa is working to build the Program into a sustainable national platform. ‘The aim throughout ZERO has been to lay the foundations of a path to implementing a personalised medicine program within the Australian health system,’ she says. ‘I want to see all children with cancer have equitable access to personalised medicine.’
Vanessa has extensive experience in oncology, clinical, and prenatal diagnostic genetics service delivery in public and private sectors, laboratory management, accreditation, quality assurance, policy and leadership development. She is an Associate of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, holds an MBA in general management, and is a Fellow of the Human Genetics Society of Australasia.