Each year almost 1,000 Australian children are diagnosed with childhood cancer and 5,600 are undergoing treatment.
For every ten children diagnosed, two will not survive; and those who do suffer long-term (sometimes life-long) health issues because current therapies can affect children’s growing bodies. More precise, safer treatments for children with cancer are needed to improve survival and reduce adverse treatment impact.
Hudson Institute is a world leader in the field, building capacity and sustainability for paediatric cancer research by cultivating local, national and international partnerships, supporting educational events and training the childhood cancer leaders of tomorrow.
Our childhood cancer research
Some childhood cancers have either no treatment available, or what is available hasn’t improved for more than forty years. These rare, low-survival, difficult-to-treat childhood cancers are among the specialities of Hudson Institute researchers.
VPCC Next Generation Precision Medicine program
There are approximately 80 different types of malignant (cancerous) brain tumours that occur in children, and 190 children are diagnosed with childhood brain cancer each year. The VPCC Next Generation Precision Medicine program aims to significantly improve the treatment, survival and quality of life for children with cancer, with a special focus on brain cancer.
With funding from the Children’s Cancer Foundation since 2017 and additional funding from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) from 2021, the Next Generation Precision Medicine has established one of the largest biobank repositories of childhood cancer models in the world.
Now, using state-of-the art functional genomic and multi-dimensional profiling technologies, the biobank is being used to develop the next generation of precision oncology treatments for paediatric cancer patients to
- Develop and characterise new models of adult, adolescent and childhood brain cancers
- Conduct functional screens (CRISPR, drug screens) to identify genetic vulnerabilities and dependencies in brain cancer
- Utilise computational approaches (eg; machine-based learning) to predict therapeutic responses based on molecular features.
Improving survival rates and treatments for childhood, adolescent and young adult (AYA) sarcomas
Sarcomas are a rare type of cancer that originate in the connective tissue of the body, including fat, muscle, bone and cartilage. They can develop anywhere in the body and are among the most common types of solid tumours in children. Sarcomas that arise in the bone (osteosarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma) and muscle (rhabdomyosarcoma) are the most predominant in children. Survival rates for children with sarcomas have remained stagnant for the last four decades. Curative treatment, effective in 70 per cent of patients, often has lifelong negative impacts. Our sarcoma program includes both clinical and discovery research projects utilizing a broad range of patient tissue, in vitro and in vivo preclinical models, and techniques.
Identifying molecular prognostics and therapy resistance signatures in childhood sarcomas
In this the team will assess the diagnostic primary tumour samples of a clinically defined cohort of sarcoma patients to determine the molecular signatures that predict therapeutic response, metastasis and survival outcomes. This information would represent a major development in the field, and enable the future risk stratification of patients and adaptation of therapy to minimise side effects and improve outcomes.
Team | Dr Jason Cain, Dr Nataliya Zhukova, Dr Priya Sundaravel (Royal Children’s Hospital)
Collaborators | A/Prof Peter Downie (Monash Children’s Hospital), Prof Michael Sullivan (Royal Children’s Hospital), Prof Roger Redell (Children’s Medical Research Institute), Dr Emmy Fleuren (Children’s Cancer Institute), Dr Eva Brack (University of Zurich), Prof Andreas Von Deimling (German Cancer Research Centre – DKFZ), Dr Leanne Super (Monash Children’s Hospital), Dr Lisa Orme (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre)
Targeting Hedgehog signalling pathway in childhood and adolescent osteosarcoma
This project explores the mechanisms of Hedgehog pathway activation in osteosarcoma, assesses the efficacy of Hedgehog pathway inhibition on tumour cell growth, and aims to identify genetic biomarkers of likely response to pharmacological pathway inhibitors that can be rapidly translated into the clinic.
Team | Dr Jason Cain, Dr Vijesh Vaghjiani
Collaborators | Prof Neil Watkins, A/Prof Peter Downie (Monash Children’s Hospital), Prof Carl Walkley (St Vincent’s Research Institute), Dr Maya Kansara (Garvan Research Institute), Prof Jayesh Desai (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre)
Identification of functional pathway dependencies in childhood sarcomas
In collaboration with the VPCC Next Generation Precision Medicine program, this project utilises an in vitro and in vivo functional genomics approach to identify and validate potential therapeutic molecular targets in childhood sarcoma. The outcomes of this project will define new therapeutic opportunities for patients with childhood sarcomas.
Team | Dr Jason Cain, Dr Vijesh Vaghjiani, Christie Sun, Yee Farn Goh
Collaborators | Prof Ron Firestein (Hudson Institute), Prof Alejandro Sweet-Cordero (University of California San Francisco), A/Prof Peter Downie (Monash Children’s Hospital)
Improving immune recognition and response to immunotherapy in childhood sarcomas
In collaboration with Translational Antigen Discovery Laboratory lead by Dr Pouya Faridi, the team will explore the mechanism of impaired tumour antigen presentation on the surface of sarcoma cells and identify potential therapies that overcome this phenomenon. Strategies to induce cancer antigen presentation will lead to greater visibility of sarcoma cells to the immune system and more sensitivity to cancer immunotherapy.
Team | Dr Jason Cain, Dr Pouya Faridi, Grace Huang
Collaborators | A/Prof Peter Downie (Monash Children’s Hospital), Prof Michael Sullivan (Royal Children’s Hospital)
Identification of pathway dependencies in childhood brain tumours
- Dr Priya Sundaravel – The Royal Children’s Hospital
- Prof Michael Sullivan – The Royal Children’s Hospital
- A/Prof Peter Downie – Monash Children’s Hospital
- Dr Pouya Faridi – Monash University
- Prof Alejandro Sweet-Cordero – University of California San Francisco
- Prof Carl Walkley – St Vincent’s Research Institute
- Dr Maya Kansara – Garvan Medical Research Institute
- Prof Roger Redell – Children’s Medical Research Institute
- Dr Emmy Fleuren – Children’s Cancer Institute
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Support for families and children with cancer
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