Australian doctors today announced a futuristic new medicine program for kids with cancer that aims to boost survival rates to 100 per cent.
CHILDREN with the worst types of cancer will have their tumours copied into Avatar-like clones so their doctors can work out which treatments are most effective for their individual illness.
The Australian-first program will replace a trial and error approach, which can cause unnecessary suffering and side-effects from treatments that don’t work.
The extraordinary plan – aimed at pushing young cancer patients’ survival rates up to 100 per cent – was announced today at Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick.
“This is a very exciting initiative that will revolutionize the way in which treatment decisions about childhood cancer will be made,” said Professor Michelle Haber, executive director of the Children’s Cancer Institute, which is working in partnership with the hospital.
“The challenge in curing every child is that each child’s cancer is unique, which means they respond differently to anti-cancer treatment.”
The Zero Childhood Cancer Program involves doctors taking a sample of a child’s tumour cells and growing them into a biological model. Then hundreds of potential drugs and combinations of drugs can rapidly be tested on the model to find out which is going to work on that individual cancer.
This is exciting because each child’s cancer is different at a molecular level so the right treatment can be different even for two kids with the same type of cancer.
The program offers hope to the 150 kids a year diagnosed with types of cancer that have a survival rate of less than 30 per cent. They include the most aggressive forms of brain tumours, sarcomas, infant leukaemia and neuroblastomas.
A pilot study will start with high-risk NSW patients next year, followed by a planned national clinical trial in 2017. When fully rolled out, it will be offered to kids throughout Australia who are at highest risk of relapse or treatment failure.
The Children’s Cancer Institute and Sydney Children’s Hospital are recognised as world leaders in treating kids’ cancer and work with major research centres in the US and Europe.