ADELAIDE, Australia — Adelaide oncologists and researchers will use AU$2.4 million ($1.81 million) in funding to work with families to understand and fight common and deadly childhood cancer.
Two separate projects funded from the Federal government’s Medical Research Future Fund will address neuroblastoma, a solid tumor that accounts for 15 percent of all childhood cancer deaths.
The Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) is an AU$20 billion ($15.04 billion) long-term investment supporting Australian health and medical research. The fund aims to transform health and medical research and innovation to improve lives, build the economy and contribute to health system sustainability.
One study led by Professor Yeesim Khew-Goodall will try to identify the molecular drivers of neuroblastoma using patient data.
Khew-Goodall said cancer typically affected children under the age of five years and for high-risk scenarios children needed to undergo multiple rounds of therapy.
“Due to the young age of the children and the high toxicity of current treatments, which include chemotherapy and radiation therapy, those who survive can end up with debilitating side effects that stay with them for life,” she said.
Khew-Goodall’s study will prioritize trying to predict which patients will or will not respond to current treatments. “At the moment, we have a sledgehammer approach towards treating neuroblastoma that can lead to developmental effects, including deafness, and problems with speech, mobility, and cognition,” she said.
Less than half of high-risk patients live five years after their neuroblastoma diagnosis.
The other study, led by Professor Quenten Schwarz will try to find more effective drugs to fight cancer by using genetically engineered stem cells to model the fetal origins of the disease. Quenten Schwarz is a developmental neuroscientist heading the Neurovascular Research Laboratory at the Centre for Cancer Biology.
“Stem cell modeling will help us mimic the disease process so that we can understand how different genetic alterations drive different forms of this cancer,” Schwarz said. “A major flaw of current treatment strategies is that they fail to treat the underlying cause of tumor growth.”
The researchers will work with the families of current patients over the next three years, combining laboratory studies with patient profiling.
As per reports, There is an average of 101 cancer deaths per year for children under the age of 15 in Australia. Tumors of the central nervous system (mainly brain tumors) account for the largest number of cancer deaths for children in Australia (39%), followed by leukemia (22%) and neuroblastoma (13%).
(Edited by Vaibhav Pawar and Ritaban Misra)