Anya's Wish

$765,451 raised

$800,000 Goal

$765,451 raised

$800,000 Goal

Change the future for children and young people with sarcoma. Donate to Anya’s Wish.

Anya’s Wish is a world-leading research project at Children’s Cancer Institute that aims to find more effective and safer treatments for osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer.

Anya’s Wish is named in memory of Anya Zuber, a vivacious and inspiring 19-year-old who passed away from osteosarcoma in 2020.

Osteosarcoma most commonly affects teenagers and young adults and often has a very poor prognosis. For those diagnosed with advanced osteosarcoma, or for those who relapse, only about one in five will survive.

We can and we must do better. That’s what Anya’s Wish is aiming to do.

What is the aim of our research?

Today’s treatments for osteosarcoma are, by and large, the same treatments that have been used for decades. The main options are surgery, often amputation, high-dose chemotherapy and radiation therapy. For many, these treatments are simply not effective, and those that do survive their disease are left with harsh side effects that can go on for the rest of their lives.

Led by Dr Emmy Fleuren, a Team Leader at Children’s Cancer Institute, Anya’s Wish seeks to find new-generation drugs that kill osteosarcoma cells and stop tumour growth. They are also looking to test drug combinations to help overcome the problem of treatment resistance, which often results when only one drug is used.

The research centres around novel targeted therapies – drugs that specifically target tumour cells and leave healthy cells unharmed. This will help create safer treaments and avoid unwanted side effects. Find out more about the research by watching the video below.

“I know that Anya was dedicated to supporting research to find better treatments for children with osteosarcoma. There is an absolute and unmet need to do something about these tumours and with Anya’s Wish we can do just that.”

Dr Emmy Fleuren
Team Leader, Children's Cancer Institute

What has been achieved so far?

Thanks to the incredibly generous supporters of Anya’s Wish, so far we have been able to make significant progress.

Before we can test the effectiveness of any drugs, we need to grow osteosarcoma cells in the lab, something that has proven to be notoriously difficult. However, we have been able to fine-tune our methods to develop a protocol to establish, grow and maintain cells in the laboratory at Children’s Cancer Institute. 

Using this protocol, we have established nine new, globally unique osteosarcoma cell lines. This is not only an important step for the Anya’s Wish project, but represents a significant contribution to osteosarcoma research worldwide.

Building on this, we have proved that a certain drug stops the growth of osteosarcoma cells, while keeping the healthy cells alone. This is an incredibly exciting development. We will now look to test this drug in our more intricate 3D models of osteosarcoma and look at drug combinations to tackle potential drug resistance upfront. 

These results will be shared in peer-reviewed journals so that they are accessible to the wider research and scientific community worldwide.

Help us keep this momentum going by donating to Anya’s Wish today.

Donate to Anya's Wish

Anya's Story

Anya was 13 when she was diagnosed with high-grade metastatic osteosarcoma – an aggressive and life-threatening bone cancer.

Throughout her 6-year journey, Anya's strength, toughness and bravery inspired all those around her.

This is her story.

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While other teenage girls were going to school and catching up with their friends, Anya began treatment under Professor Stewart Kellie at The Cancer Centre for Children at Westmead Children’s Hospital. Over the next ten months, she would endure six rounds of chemotherapy and limb-saving surgery on her leg.

Her mum, Liz, was beside her through it all.

“They wanted to hit her hard with several rounds of chemotherapy first and then do the major operation on her left leg.”

Coming from Armidale, the diagnosis turned the family’s life upside down. Liz, her husband Will and Anya’s brother, Alexander, relocated to Sydney where they lived in an apartment at Ronald McDonald House on the grounds of the hospital, and Alexander attended a local school.

At the end of treatment in December 2015, Anya got the ‘all clear’ from her specialists and was able to return home. The family enjoyed a long-anticipated holiday at their favourite beach, followed by some rich family celebrations over Christmas in Armidale.

“It was so joyful; she’d done it! Then after we got home, Anya noticed some bruising down the back of her leg.”

Tests in January 2016 confirmed the family’s worst fears – the cancer was back. They returned to Sydney where Anya received a further six months of intensive chemotherapy and high-dose radiation, pushing the boundaries of what she could tolerate.

In August 2016, she was again given the ‘all clear’. Over the next few years, Anya took great delight in things that most teenagers take for granted: being at home, going to school, and seeing friends.

“I was so proud of Anya. She’d got through it yet again and had her future ahead of her. She got through high school, did her HSC and was planning to go to university.”

Anya’s struggle with osteosarcoma helped strengthen her mental and physical toughness, as she bravely faced treatment and worked hard on recovery. In November 2019, she expressed a wish to move from Westmead Children’s Hospital to an adult hospital. She transferred to the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, where she continued regular observation under the watchful eyes of oncologist, Dr Vivek Bahdri, and highly regarded orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Richard Boyle, who had looked after Anya from day one.

A scan in May 2020 showed a reoccurrence of the cancer in her lungs. She underwent successful surgery in July, and again, the family looked towards a bright future as Anya and her boyfriend Ky made plans to move to Queensland for university.

However, on 30 August 2020, Anya discovered further symptoms. “She came down the stairs and said ‘There’s something wrong’”.

On 1 September, a scan showed masses in the right lung and the superior vena cava. Anya was rushed to Sydney the next day. She lost her brave battle on 12 September, surrounded by her loved ones.

Toward the end, Anya dreaded the prospect of further chemotherapy and wished for less invasive regimes like immunotherapy. She wished that her body, her experience with the disease, and any other resources be focused on the ongoing research to end childhood cancer, and particularly sarcomas. 

“She had just fought so hard for so long and she said ‘You’ve got to do something about this’. So that was the beginning of Anya’s Wish.”

Anya’s Wish is a dedicated osteosarcoma research program conducted by Children’s Cancer Institute. Led by Senior Scientist Dr Emmy Fleuren, it is focused on developing targeted therapies for children with osteosarcoma, which are not only effective at killing cancer cells, but are much less harsh than conventional chemotherapy, causing fewer side effects.

Anya’s Wish is entirely funded by the community, in particular by dedicated friends, businesses and supporters in her home town of Armidale.

In the future, plans are in place to maximise the chances of curing sarcoma by researching additional treatment approaches, such as immunotherapy and combination therapies, which it is hoped will mean stories like Anya’s become a thing of the past.

“Something’s really not right when you have to say goodbye to your child. Through this research and through the community, we can make a real impact, and it’s essential that we do.”

19 for 19 Challenge

On Sunday 15 October 2023, join the 19 for 19 challenge to honour the 19 precious years that Anya lived for.

Whether you walk, run or cycle 19km, do 19 star jumps, run 19 laps of your local park or are able to walk 19km with us in Armidale - together we can make a difference for generations to come.

Every kilometre we embark together will help us to move one step closer to improving the outcomes for children diagnosed with osteosarcoma.

Find out more