Australia’s leading childhood cancer researchers will today be awarded close to $4.5million to fund ground-breaking new research set to significantly improve the outcomes for children with cancer.
Two separate research projects have been funded by Cancer Council NSW, and will investigate new methods to prevent and treat leukaemia alongside programs to enhance the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors and their families.
Professor Murray Norris and his team at Children’s Cancer Institute are extending their work on molecular targeted therapies, expected to improve treatment options and survival rates for children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).
At any one time there are roughly 1,500 Australian children on active treatment for cancer, or at risk of relapse and Professor Norris says that there is an urgent need for new treatments, and to prioritise the development of new drugs.
“Traditional anti-cancer drugs have high toxicity levels which cause significant side-effects, particularly in the growing tissues of a child. Sadly, these leave 70 per cent of long-term childhood cancer survivors with chronic health problems including secondary cancer, infertility, cardiomyopathy and poor mental health.
“Molecular therapies have enormous potential to significantly improve survival rates and quality of life for childhood survivors as they directly target the leukaemia cells while reducing the impact on healthy cells.
“Alongside these new treatments, we’re also investigating agents that would stop leukaemia cells from developing and help to prevent the disease in children who are at high risk of leukaemia”, said Prof Norris.
Professor Karen Canfell, Director of Cancer Research at Cancer Council NSW said that the program grants are allocated to some of the nation’s best researchers, where the biggest gains can be made in cancer research.
“Unfortunately, childhood cancer remains the largest disease-related killer of Australian children. We have funded Professor Norris previously and his team has a wealth of experience in this field and a track record of immense success.
“His team have already developed a new diagnostic test for children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) allowing patients to have more individualised treatments. This approach is now used as standard of care for all children in Australia with ALL”, said Prof Canfell.
The second project led by Associate Professor Claire Wakefield at University of New South Wales and Program Leader at the Kids Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital will implement and continue to develop a range of programs to help childhood cancer patients and their families with the ongoing survivorship issues they face.
“There are now more than 20,000 young Australians who are survivors of childhood cancer, and this group is at an increased risk of premature death, serious illness and poor mental health.
“The health system and community organisations have a responsibility to meet the needs of these survivors, but also to support families in the case where a child dies from their cancer. Currently, there is a lack of research in this area and insufficient programs in place to help the people that need it most.
“As a result of the funding we’ve received from Cancer Council NSW, our team has developed six separate programs that focus on meeting these needs through re-engagement with cancer follow-up, healthy lifestyle, and mental and social wellbeing. We are also establishing new Australian resources for family members, friends and health care professionals”, said A/Prof Wakefield.
Cancer Council NSW 2016 Program Grants have awarded close to $9million dollars to visionary researchers across NSW. For more information on Cancer Council NSW research visit http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/research/
Media Contact: Airlie Winter-Irving, PR Officer, 0405 415 126, (02) 9334 1883
Professor Karen Canfell, Director Cancer Research, Cancer Council NSW
Professor Murray Norris, Children’s Cancer Institute
Associate Professor Claire Wakefield, University of New South Wales & Program Leader at Kids Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital
 Children’s Cancer Institute https://www.ccia.org.au/our-research/life-after-cancer/long-term-follow-project/
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2012. A picture of Australia’s children 2012. Cat. No. PHE 167. Canberra: AHIW http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=10737423340
 Youlden D, Baade P, Ward L, et al: Childhood cancer survival in Australia, 1995-2004. Brisbane, Queensland, Viertel Centre for Research in Cancer Control, Cancer Council Queensland and the Australian Paediatric Cancer Registry, 2010.