Childhood cancer patient holding balloon

Childhood cancer affects the lives of young people all over the world, regardless of their family background or upbringing. Presently, more than 80 per cent of children in high-income countries have their cancer cured compared to only 30 per cent in low to middle-income countries.

In recent years, groundbreaking clinical trials, dedicated paediatricians and cancer researchers have helped improve childhood cancer survival rates and the way we treat the disease. However, the number of children in Australia diagnosed with cancer is also increasing, highlighting the need for further research. 

In Australia, almost 1,000 children are diagnosed with cancer annually and around 100 children sadly die. Almost half of these cancer diagnoses are for children under five. Globally, nearly 400,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer each year.

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has several cancer studies ongoing, including the Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium (VPCC), Australian Cardio-Oncology Registry (ACOR) and cutting-edge brain cancer research. Our research aims to improve childhood cancer survival rates so that all children have the opportunity to live a healthy and fulfilled life.

Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium (VPCC)

The Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium (VPCC) is a collaboration led by Murdoch Children’s and the Hudson Institute of Medical Research that is driven by the need to improve outcomes for child cancer patients in Australia and worldwide.

The VPCC also includes clinicians and researchers from The Royal Children’s Hospital, Monash Children's Hospital, WEHIPeter MacCallum Cancer CentreMonash University and the University of Melbourne. This interplay of clinical expertise and research pipelines ensures that every potentially life-saving discovery reaches children in hospital with cancer as quickly as possible.

VPCC’s dedicated researchers work hard to fill the gap in child cancer research by mapping the patient journey, finding new therapies for rare types of cancer and investigating how to minimise the harmful effects of cancer-fighting treatments.

The aim of VPCC is to learn more about the immediate and ongoing effects of childhood cancer and give survivors better opportunities to manage their long-term health as they grow up.   

VPCC is funded by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and the Andrews Labor Government.

Australian Cardio-Oncology Registry (ACOR)

Currently, heart complications are the second leading cause of death in those who have beaten cancer. Survivors of childhood cancer are at a greater risk of heart failure and heart disease than the general population.

The Australian Cardio-Oncology Registry (ACOR) is a world-first cardio-oncology registry developed by Murdoch Children’s and supported by 11 Australian hospitals. ACOR aims to learn more about why survivors of childhood cancer are more likely to have heart failure than other children and prevent this from occurring.

The registry, led by Associate Professor Rachel Conyers, documents children and young adults who are receiving cancer treatments that can be toxic to the heart such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, molecular and immunotherapy. The data collected in the registry includes information on the clinical, epidemiological and pharmaceutical experiences of children. It will help inform longitudinal cancer research to provide better outcomes and treatments for patients who are more at risk of developing harmful, therapy-related side effects.          

Brain Cancer Research

Childhood brain cancer has a very low survival rate in Australia, claiming the lives of four out of five children who are diagnosed with the disease within five years. There is currently no cure for brain cancer.

Professor David Eistenstat is the head of Neuro-Oncology at Murdoch Children’s and Director of the Children’s Cancer Centre at The Royal Children’s Hospital.

Professor Eistenstat and his team at Murdoch Children’s are working to identify new therapies that could one day treat, prevent and cure childhood brain cancer. The new therapies being studied will see whether it’s possible to use the immune system to create immunotherapies that fight brain cancer. We are also assessing whether giving specific medications to a child with relapsed brain cancer before surgery helps to better target new tumours.

The Neuro-Oncology team is also studying the link between the signals that control a cell's final identity, normal cell development and cancer.

In addition, Associate Professor Jonathan Payne, co-lead of the Brain & Mind Research Group at Murdoch Children's and his team are working together to find new treatments that may shrink brain tumours in children with neurofibromatosis.