What we do
Zero Childhood Cancer (ZERO) is the most exciting childhood cancer research initiative ever undertaken in Australia. Led by Children’s Cancer Institute and Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, and involving unprecedented collaboration with research and clinical partners, ZERO combines cutting-edge science, the latest technology, and the brightest minds in research and clinical care to offer every child with cancer the best possible chance of survival.
The story of ZERO
ZERO began in 2015 with a pilot study in NSW, during which the platform needed to create a comprehensive and integrated precision medicine pipeline was set up and validated.
In 2017, a three-year national clinical trial was launched for children and young people up to 21 years of age with high risk, rare and relapsed cancers – those with a less than 30% chance of survival. The aim of this trial was to test the practicality and impact of providing a comprehensive testing platform (including genomic analysis, drug screening and drug testing) to identify precision medicine treatments for children and young adults with high-risk cancer. Patients from all eight of Australia’s children’s hospitals were involved in the trial, which generated some truly remarkable results.
Thanks to a $67 million joint funding announcement from the Federal Government and Minderoo Foundation* in April 2020, ZERO’s genetic testing platform will be accessible to all Australian children and young people diagnosed with cancer regardless of their risk type by the end 2023.
Building on the success of the first three years of the trial, we will now expand access to and enhance the program over the next three years. Excitingly, the new trial will not only include children with high-risk cancer; it will be expanded over time to be accessible to all children with cancer. By the end of 2023, all Australian children and young people with cancer will be able to benefit from ZERO, regardless of the cancer they have. For the first time, every child diagnosed with cancer will have access to personalised medicine.
In order to plan and implement this game-changing expansion of ZERO, an extension of the existing national clinical trial was approved, which is allowing us to continue to enrol patients without interruption.
Accelerating research through Zero Childhood Cancer
Each child or young adult participating in ZERO’s national clinical trial has a sample from their tumour subjected to detailed laboratory analyses, using a wide range of cutting-edge science and technology. This generates data that is not only used to provide potentially actionable recommendations to the child’s treating clinician, but is also used to inform a variety of child cancer research projects that will enhance the program’s capabilities over time.
ZERO is generating an incredible wealth of research data that is adding enormously to our understanding of childhood cancer and creating a valuable resource for cancer researchers worldwide. In particular, tumour analysis of children taking part in the clinical trial is leading to exciting revelations about the causes and molecular drivers of cancers in children, which in turn is driving research into potential therapies and preventive strategies.
Strategic research imperatives for ZERO include those focusing on liquid biopsy and tumour heterogeneity, strengthening computational biology precision medicine capabilities, immuno-oncology, preclinical modelling, child cancer predisposition, and psychosocial and health systems. Expansion of the national clinical trial to include all children and young people diagnosed with cancer by 2023 will lead to more novel research activities in the coming years.
* The Federal Government has contributed nearly $80M to ZERO in total, first supporting the national clinical trial with $20M awarded in 2016, followed by $5M from the Australian Brain Cancer Mission in 2018. In 2020, through the Medical Research Future Fund they awarded $54.8M towards the expansion for ZERO’s genetic testing platform. Minderoo Foundation has contributed $17.2M to ZERO, initially donating $5M towards the costs of the ZERO national clinical trial in 2017, and in 2020 pledged a further $12.2M to support the expansion of the Program through to 2025, resourcing of hospital network sites and support for ZERO’s digital data platforms.
For more information on the Zero Childhood Cancer program, visit our dedicated website
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