Media Release: Prime Minister announces $5 million funding boost for brain cancer personalised trials

16 Jul 2018

The Zero Childhood Cancer personalised medicine program is the largest single initiative ever undertaken for children with cancer in Australia

Brain tumours are the most common solid tumour of childhood, and represent the single disease entity responsible for the most deaths in childhood. Recent statistics suggest 4 out of 10 children with aggressive brain cancer will die of their disease. Thanks to generous funding announced today by the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, Australia came closer to reducing these statistics. The Prime Minister, together with the Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, announced $5 million funding from the Medical Research Future Fund to the Zero Childhood Cancer brain cancer program.

The Zero Childhood Cancer personalised medicine program is the largest single initiative ever undertaken for children with cancer in Australia, and is led by Children’s Cancer Institute in partnership with the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick.

According to Professor Michelle Haber, Executive Director of Children’s Cancer Institute, who spoke at the announcement today in Melbourne, the Zero program “recognises that every child’s cancer is unique, so to improve survival rates the precise molecular and biological profile of each child’s cancer needs to be identified using complex laboratory tests to enable recommendation of an individual personalised treatment plan”.

The Zero Childhood Cancer program is designed to fast track children with high-risk brain cancer into treatment with new drugs specifically tailored for their unique disease.

The national Zero Childhood Cancer clinical trial opened last September involving all eight children’s hospitals in Australia with more than 400 children with high-risk cancer expected to participate over the next 3 years. Since the commencement of the pilot study in 2015 to now, almost half of all the patients involved in the program are children with aggressive brain cancer.

The $5M funds received will help to achieve the following:

  • To establish the Zero Childhood Cancer program as a clinical trial nationally, and consolidate research activities to identify the most appropriate therapeutics for all Australian children with high-risk brain cancers. This means that every child in Australia with high-risk brain cancer, no matter where they live or which hospital they are being treated at, will be able to access this world-leading personalised medicine program.
  • Establishment of a dedicated brain cancer clinical trials capability. To facilitate the roll out of a number of clinical trials of new drugs and therapies for brain cancer patients, this will be the first clinical trial centre in Australia solely dedicated to establishing investigator-initiated and industry-led novel clinical trials for high-risk Australian paediatric brain cancer patients.
  • Establish an immunoprofiling platform to expand therapeutic recommendations to include immunotherapy. This funding will support the positions and the direct research costs required to develop routine immunoprofiling methods which will be integrated into the Zero Childhood Cancer testing platform, as well as developing novel immune-therapeutic treatments for high-risk paediatric brain cancer patients.

At the announcement, the Prime Minister said that the funding, which is part of a broader $100 million Australian Brain Cancer Mission, will mean more than 200 children – around 50 every year – with high-risk brain cancer will now be included in the program from right across Australia.

“This is about giving each and every child the best possible chance at a better life,” he said.

The funding is one of the first to be announced from the Medical Research Future Fund and is the first for the Brain Cancer Mission Fund.