More targeted, less harmful treatments for kids with cancer, thanks to $1M in funding

Research News
Thursday, December 8, 2016 - 12:30pm

One of the MCRI’s key philanthropic supporters, the Children’s Cancer Foundation, will donate more than $1 million towards cancer research, which will lead to more effective treatment and prevention for childhood cancers, including leukaemia, brain tumours and solid tumours.

These studies will improve the way we understand the genetic drivers of childhood cancers, and lead to more targeted and less harmful treatment for patients.

Professor Andrew Elefanty received more than $460,000 from the Foundation to model childhood leukaemia in the laboratory using human pluripotent stem cells.

The recent breakthrough in our ability to create normal blood cells in the lab means we can now more accurately model childhood diseases of the blood, such as leukaemia,’ Prof Elefanty says.

‘With this funding, we will be able to learn more about the abnormal genes that cause the leukaemia, identify improved combinations of available anti-leukaemia drugs, and search for new treatments to help children with these illnesses.’

Associate Professor Paul Ekert received $280,000 to lead a study that will result in transcriptome sequencing being implemented in a clinical setting and used for precision cancer medicine. Transcriptome sequencing is a technique to read the genetic code in cancer cells to identify the cell changes that cause cancer.

‘Our experience to date shows that using transcriptome sequencing to find these changes is more effective than conventional techniques,’ A/Prof Ekert says.

‘This project will take us forward to the next stage, where we trial our techniques as part of the clinical assessment to show how it can change treatments for children with leukaemia, and eventually other types of cancer.’

The Foundation will provide $271,000 over two years towards a study that will identify the genes that fuse to cause childhood brain cancer and solid tumours, and investigate the factors that cause these genetic changes.

This information to develop a frontline blood test to map the genetic nature and profile of tumours in advance of any major surgery or biopsy.

‘We hope that this will open up opportunities for us to use less-invasive methods, including using blood samples, for identifying tumours and following their responses to treatment,’ A/Prof Ekert says.

Professor Richard Saffery, who will be leading this study, says it is an exciting time to be researching the causes of childhood cancers.

‘As with children, no two childhood tumours are ever identical: each has its own properties and behaviour which in the past has been tremendously difficult to predict.

‘This funding provides a tremendous boost to our ultimate goal of fully characterising tumours of children in a manner rapid enough to enable individual tailoring of treatments in the clinic,’ Prof Saffery says.

More information is in the media release.