Cancer centres in Australia have launched a national clinical trial under the Zero Childhood Cancer programme to evaluate personalised medicine for childhood cancers.

Led by Children’s Cancer Institute and the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, the trial will involve scientists from 13 Australian and international research institutes, along with doctors from all eight children cancer centres in the country.

The trial will identify new treatment options that will be specifically designed to suit individual cancers of children at highest risk of treatment failure or relapse.

Based on previous NSW study performed in 2015 with around 60 children having the most aggressive cancers, the new trial will involve a detailed laboratory analysis of tumour samples to identify the drugs.

The NSW study demonstrated the feasibility of logistics and laboratory testing required to analyse patient tumours and obtain meaningful results in real-time.

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Initially opened in Sydney, the new trial is designed to enrol more than 400 children in various cities in the country over the next three years.

Children’s Cancer Institute executive director and Zero Childhood Cancer research lead professor Michelle Haber said: “Using the latest molecular profiling techniques and laboratory testing of patient cancer cells with anti-cancer drugs, Zero Childhood Cancer will give the most detailed diagnosis possible in Australia to date for children with the most aggressive cancers.

“It is one of the most complex and comprehensive personalised medicine programmes in the world.”

"It is one of the most complex and comprehensive personalised medicine programmes in the world."

As the trial is based on reliable scientific information such as individual genetic mutations, it is expected to provide the best chance of survival for children with the most aggressive cancers.

To aid children with relapsed cancer, whose survival rates are usually lower, the trial will involve biopsy and detailed analysis of relapsed cancer cells to acquire maximum information needed for targeted treatment decisions.

Estimated to run until at least 2019, the trial’s data is expected to help to refine or modify cancer subtype of an individual child, providing potential new treatment options.

The researchers further intend to incorporate the obtained information in future frontline treatments.

Image: In Zero Childhood Cancer, detailed laboratory analysis of tumour samples will help identify the best drugs for each patient. Photo: courtesy of Children's Cancer Institute.