Inaugural ZERO symposium brings together precision oncology experts from all over the world

07 Nov 2022

The inaugural Zero Childhood Cancer Program (ZERO) National Symposium was held in Sydney recently, bringing together leading national and international experts at the cutting edge of cancer precision medicine research to explore the theme ‘Towards Precision Oncology for All’.

ZERO is Australia’s first and most comprehensive precision medicine program for children and young people with cancer. Led by Children’s Cancer Institute and Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, ZERO is partnered with national and international research institutions and major paediatric hospitals in Australia to advance research-driven clinical care and support better outcomes for all children with cancer.

A two-day hybrid event attended by close to 200 clinicians, researchers and health professionals both online and in-person, the ZERO symposium provided a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary exchange of progress and discoveries in the expansive field of paediatric oncology precision medicine.

“The theme of the symposium, ‘Towards Precision Oncology for All’, was chosen because we felt it represented the next phase in our journey − aiming to understand every child and their cancer intimately, and integrating everything we learn about them to achieve better outcomes,” explains Associate Professor Vanessa (Ness) Tyrell, Zero Childhood Cancer Program Leader. “We want to make precision medicine more precise so that, in the future, every child has the best possible chance of living their best life.”

The symposium’s program included two international plenary speakers, seven national invited speaker sessions, selected oral, rapid fire and poster presentations from over 70 submitted abstracts, and career and consumer perspective sessions with valued input from seven panellists. 

Content covered a broad range of topics relevant to paediatric cancer, including: 

  • cancer biology and clinical translation 
  • genetics, genomics and cancer predisposition 
  • bioethics and psychosocial research
  • functional biology and preclinical modelling
  • learning from the lived experience - parent and consumer perspectives.

The diversity of topics presented at the symposium reflects the extensive efforts of clinicians and researchers worldwide to bring together a comprehensive suite of techniques and expertise to advance precision medicine and improve the translation of childhood cancer research. 

“ZERO has put Australia on the global map in precision cancer medicine, standing side by side with our European, UK, US and Canadian colleagues to make a significant and growing contribution to the international research effort,” said Associate Professor Tyrell. “We are thrilled that we could host this symposium to share the amazing science that’s being done in precision oncology, both here in Australia and overseas, and are very excited about the new ideas and potential collaborations it has helped facilitate.”

Since launching a national precision medicine trial in 2017, ZERO has focused on identifying new treatment options for children with high-risk cancers – those facing less than 30% chance of survival. Now, the Program is being progressively expanded so that by the end of 2023, all children and young people up to the age of 21 years in Australia who are diagnosed with cancer will have access to precision medicine through ZERO.

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