Children’s Cancer Institute expands the groundbreaking ZERO program.
Building on the success of the first national clinical trial in 2017, the ZERO Childhood Cancer Program (ZERO) has now reached a milestone in Australia’s medical history, enrolling the 1000th child on the program.
29 August, 2023
It is both a first in Australia’s medical history and nothing short of extraordinary given that ZERO’s first national clinical trial was conducted as recently as 2017
It’s called precision medicine – a targeted approach to treating cancer in children, that was not even an option a decade ago. But now it is not only delivering life-saving results to those with high-risk conditions, but is expanding to help even more children. As the name suggests, the approach uses in depth analysis of the specific makeup of each child’s cancer at a genomic level, seeking to identify the drivers of their specific illness and aiding in providing a tailored treatment program for each child.
The results of this very targeted approach has achieved incredible results in just a matter of years, and through the dedicated efforts of clinicians and researchers working together, the ZERO Childhood Cancer Program (ZERO) is providing light at the end of what was too often a very dark tunnel.
This year, ZERO, which is run in partnership by Children’s Cancer Institute and the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, has a reached an extraordinary milestone, with the 1000th child enrolled.
It is both a first in Australia’s medical history and nothing short of extraordinary given that ZERO’s first national clinical trial, focusing on identifying treatment options for children with the highest risk cancers, was conducted as recently as 2017.
It’s a milestone and reason for celebration in an area that remains very much a game of inches. Cancer is still the leading cause of childhood death by disease in Australia, with as many as 1000 young Australians diagnosed each year. Of that number though, the survival rate now sits at over 80 percent where 40 or 50 years ago it would have been in the single figures.
The ZERO program and its approach is unique on many fronts. Although Children’s Cancer Institute’s labs are based in Sydney, it includes all nine of Australia’s children’s hospitals as well as 22 national and international research partners all working across different areas.
Children’s Cancer Institute was established in the mid-1970s, born out of a lack of research into the high incidence of cancers affecting children. Since then it has grown in size and stature to employ more than 350 researchers, students and operational personnel, working across myriad disciplines, all looking at ways of improving and understanding treatments and outcomes.
The Institute’s first researcher, Professor Michelle Haber AM, is now the Executive Director, and while she, like her colleagues will not rest until cancer is beaten once and for all, is excited at the rate of progress being made.
The survival rate now sits at over 80 percent where 40 or 50 years ago it would have been in the single figures
There is a great deal more to do, but with so much achieved in such a comparatively short space of time, there is certainly reason of optimism
“Where the program was initially founded to help find more effective ways of treating children with high-risk cancers, such has been the success to date that by the end of this year, ZERO will be made available to all children diagnosed with cancer in Australia, thanks in part to our major funders the Australian Government and Minderoo Foundation.
“This tremendous step means that every child and young person diagnosed with cancer in Australia will have access to the game-changing targeted, personalised treatment developed through ZERO. Another incredible achievement for all involved in the Program. ”
There is a great deal more to do, but with so much achieved in such a comparatively short space of time, there is certainly reason of optimism.
Speaking in a recent interview published in The Weekend Australian, Professor Haber said she believed that ‘childhood cancer in Australia could be cured within a generation’.
“Because of medical research we’ve gone from zero survival to 70 percent to 80 percent and 85 percent,” she said.
“One day we will get to zero children dying of cancer and there will be drugs available that will make this a chronic, manageable disease.”
Certainly, there is an ever increasing number of young individuals and their families who are living proof of how Haber and her colleagues have changed the way childhood cancer is approached and treated. As their mission statement goes – it’s not if, it’s when.
Want to ensure you always receive the latest news and features from Audi? Subscribe now to the Audi Magazine newsletter.