Prime Minister announces major funding commitment for Zero Childhood Cancer

31 May 2016

We are delighted that the Prime Minister has announced today a $20M funding commitment for Australia’s single-biggest initiative in childhood cancer, the Zero Childhood Cancer Program.

Executive Director Professor Michelle Haber AM of Children’s Cancer Institute said that, as result of the commitment, the ground-breaking personalised medicine program for childhood cancer would take a giant step towards improving outcomes for children with the most difficult-to-treat cancers.

“We are delighted by the funding commitment the Prime Minister has announced today” she said. “We hope all parties will support this announcement”.

“This funding is critical to build the research infrastructure we need to deliver the benefits that Zero Childhood Cancer will bring for children with the highest-risk cancers, wherever in Australia they are.”

The Program, an initiative of Children’s Cancer Institute and the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, involves the detailed laboratory analysis of each child’s unique cancer cells, to help identify the drugs most likely to kill their specific cancer. Scientists and doctors will then work collaboratively to identify and deliver the most effective treatment plan, specifically tailored to suit each child’s individual disease.

Despite the dramatic increase in childhood cancer survival rates over the last sixty years, from virtually 0% to 80%, nearly three Australian children and adolescents still die each week of cancer and 950 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer each year in Australia. Seventy percent of childhood cancer survivors experience significant side effects from their treatment which may be lifelong.

Professor Glenn Marshall AM, Director of the Kid’s Cancer Centre at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick and Head of Translational Research, Children’s Cancer Institute says the network of clinical and research partners across Australia will be significantly boosted by the funding commitment announced today in Sydney.

“This personalised medicine initiative is the epitome of research translated into clinical practice – true bench to bedside science. The Program is running a pilot study this year with a national clinical trial planned for next year.

I am proud to support many of the families here in their battle against childhood cancer. This program holds out hope both to them and the families that come after them” he said.

“Tailor-made treatment is expensive and we are lucky to have had wonderful support from partners like the Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx) and the NSW Government, both of whom came on board early with the program” said Professor Haber.

“We wouldn’t be able to run this Program without the support of partners including Australian Cancer Research Foundation, Cure Brain Cancer, The Kid’s Cancer Project, the Rory Williams Fund, Kids Cancer Alliance, UNSW, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Lions Club International Foundation, the Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation and the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation.

“This support from all our partners is invaluable. It has certainly meant we have made great progress but this is an ambitious, complex program with significant costs. We anticipate the total costs for the full national program to 2020 will be more than $50M which means every dollar, from the government for capital equipment and infrastructure matched with community support for scientists and consumables, is critical”, she said.