Childhood cancer

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.

In Australia, more than 1,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer each year.

Cancer kills three children every week in Australia – more than any other disease.

Almost half of all children diagnosed with cancer in Australia are aged 0-4 years old.

Despite significant overall improvements in survival rates over the past 50 years, cancer remains the leading disease-related cause of death among Australian children.”
– Professor Ron Firestein

Our childhood cancer programs

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.

View video | Childhood Cancer Model Atlas (CCMA)

Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium (VPCC) Next Generation Precision Medicine program

Next Generation Precision Medicine Program Group PhotoThere 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 assistance from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and Robert Connor Dawes Foundation (RCD) from 2021, the Next Generation Precision Medicine has gone to the next level in our quest for better cures.

Thanks to active collaborations with 35 cancer research institutes, universities and academic medical centres, we have established the Childhood Cancer Model Atlas (CCMA) – the world’s largest collection of high-risk paediatric cancer cell lines, providing a unique, open-source facility to cancer researchers globally.

The CCMA is a collection of tissue samples from more than 300+ cell-lines, giving us an opportunity to identify new therapies and biomarkers of response for paediatric cancers of greatest unmet medical need. Read more about VPCC Next Generation Precision Medicine program

Lead | Professor Ron Firestein

Improving survival rates and treatments for childhood, adolescent and young adult (AYA) sarcomas

Developmental and Cancer Biology research groupSarcomas 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. Read more about our Sarcoma Program

Lead | Associate Professor Jason Cain

Childhood acute myeloid leukaemia

Dr Catherine Carmichael wins sought-after Victorian Cancer Agency Mid-Career Research Fellowship.

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) results from the uncontrolled proliferation of immature blood cells in the bone marrow. AML accounts for 5-10 per cent of all childhood cancers and has the worst prognosis of any childhood leukaemia. Nearly half of all children diagnosed with AML will relapse following treatment and many will develop treatment refractory disease. Treatment options for relapsed or refractory AML are limited, with invasive bone marrow transplantation often the only possibility for cure.

Our childhood AML program aims to identify critical mechanisms underpinning AML development, relapse and therapy resistance. A combination of in vitro and in vivo pre-clinical AML models derived from patient samples are utilised to identify and test new treatment approaches.

Team | Dr Catherine Carmichael, Steve Lin

Cancer immunotherapy

Dr Pouya Faridi, Research Group Head, Hudson InstituteChildhood cancer poses a significant scientific and medical challenge, and within this field, immunotherapy and cancer vaccines emerge as promising, less toxic treatment options. These innovative strategies harness the innate potential of the immune system to selectively target and eradicate cancer cells, offering the potential for enhanced survival rates and improved quality of life for paediatric patients. In the ongoing battle against childhood cancer, these approaches represent a hopeful avenue for progress.

In line with this mission, this program leverages state-of-the-art immunopeptidomics and proteomics technologies. The Faridi group’s aim is to pinpoint novel targets for cancer vaccines and immunotherapies customised for childhood cancer. By scrutinising antigenic peptides expressed on cancer cells, the team endeavours to refine treatment precision and effectiveness, ultimately reducing adverse effects and enhancing the well-being of young cancer patients. This cutting-edge research forms a vital part of our commitment to advancing the field and providing new hope in the fight against childhood cancer.

Team | Dr Pouya Faridi, Dr Dongbin Jin, Dr Terry Lim

Paediatric cancer informatics

Dr Claire Sun wins sought-after Victorian Cancer Agency Early Career Research Fellowship

The Paediatric cancer informatics project is developing and applying state-of-the-art computational approaches to identify new therapeutic targets and biomarkers for low-survival paediatric cancers.

Over the past five years, we have been working as part of a multidisciplinary team, in collaboration with wet-lab scientists and paediatric oncologists to establish the computational framework and analytical methods underlying the Childhood Cancer Model Atlas (CCMA). The ultimate goal of the CCMA is to facilitate ‘big data” driven discovery of new therapeutic targets for paediatric cancers of lowest survival.

Team | Dr Xin (Claire) Sun, Vikesh Ajith, Monty Panday

Our childhood cancer researchers

Professor Ron Firestein
Centre Head, Centre for Cancer Research and Co-lead, VPCC

Naama Neeman Director of Operations VPCC

Naama Neeman
Director of Operations, VPCC

Dr Jason Cain from the Developmental and Cancer Biology Research Group at Hudson Institute

Associate Professor Jason Cain
Research Group Head, Centre for Cancer Research

Professor Bryan Williams, along with Institute researchers have identified a key immune molecule that could underpin a bowel cancer breakthrough.

Professor Bryan Williams
Distinguished Scientist

Dr Catherine Carmichael is Head of the Leukaemia Modelling and Therapeutic Discovery Research group within the Centre for Cancer Research at Hudson Institute.

Dr Catherine Carmichael
Research Group Head, Centre for Cancer Research

Dr Pouya Faridi, Research Group Head, Hudson Institute

Dr Pouya Faridi
Research Group Head, Centre for Cancer Research

Dr Xin (Claire) Sun

Dr Claire Sun
Bioinformatics Team Leader

Dr Paul Daniel is a Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow for the Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program at Hudson Institute

Dr Paul Daniel
Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr Vanessa Tsui, Postdoctoral Researcher, Functional Genomics - funded by Robert Connor Dawes Foundation at Hudson Institute

Dr Vanessa Tsui
Postdoctoral Researcher, Functional Genomics – funded by Robert Connor Dawes Foundation

Dr Vijesh Vaghjiani who has been awarded one of two Sarcoma Research grants by ANZSA.

Dr Vijesh Vaghjiani
Postdoctoral Scientist

Melissa Loi from the Cancer Genetics and Functional Genomics Research Group at Hudson Institute

Melissa Loi
Technical Sequencing Specialist

Monty Panday

Monty Panday
Analyst Programmer

Nicole Chew, Children's Cancer Foundation Senior Organoid Specialist

Dr Nicole Chew
Senior Organoid Specialist

Rajithri (Dilru) Habarakada

Rajithri (Dilru) Habarakada
Biobank Specialist

Vikesh Ajith from the Centre for Cancer Research at Hudson Institiute

Vikesh Ajith
Bioinformatics Research Assistant

Dr Hanbyeol Lee, Postdoctoral Scientist for the Centre for Cancer research at Hudson Institute.

Dr Hanbyeol Lee
Postdoctoral Scientist

Christie Sun from the Developmental and Cancer Biology Research Group at Hudson Institute

Christie Sun
PhD student

Dr Tima Shamekhi
PhD Student, Translational Antigen Discovery Laboratory, Monash University

Samitha Amarapathy, VPCC Next Generation Precision Medicine

Samitha Amarapathy
PhD student, Faculty of IT, Monash University

Nataliya Zhukova from the Developmental and Cancer Biology Research Group at Hudson Institute

Dr Nataliya Zhukova
VPCC PhD Student

Shazia Adjumain Photo

Shazia Adjumain
Gideon Gratzer PhD Scholar – funded by Robert Connor Dawes Foundation

Shaye Game from the Developmental and Cancer Biology Research Group at Hudson Institute

Shaye Game
Elliot Gautsch PhD Scholar – funded by Isabella and Marcus Foundation

Yuqing Liang

Dr Yuqing Liang
Children’s Cancer Foundation PhD Student

Our collaborators

Prof David Eisenstat – Head, Children’s Cancer Centre, The Royal Children’s Hospital; Group Leader, Neuro-Oncology, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
A/Prof Sefi Rosenbluh – Head, Cancer Functional Genomics Laboratory, Monash University
A/Prof Peter Downie AM (MCH) – Director, Children’s Cancer Centre, Monash Children’s Hospital
A/Prof Misty Jenkins – Laboratory Head, Immunology Division, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
A/Prof Paul Ekert – Group Leader, Translational Tumour Biology Laboratory, Children’s Cancer Institute
Prof Roger Daly – Head, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Co-Head, Biomedicine Discovery Institute Cancer Program, Monash University

Thank you to our Major Funding Partners

Children's Cancer Foundation Logo

Thank you to our Supporters

Kids Cancer Project

Our International collaborating partners

The Childhood Cancer Model Atlas was enabled by the work of the VPCC Next Generation Precision Medicine program.

It is the world’s largest collection of high-risk paediatric solid tumour cell lines, which makes it one of the most valuable resources available for childhood cancer researchers.

Collaboration is vital to childhood cancer research, and the CCMA is no exception. It was made possible via active collaborations with 35 cancer research institutes, universities and academic medical centres.

Support for families and children with cancer

Our scientists cannot provide medical advice.
If you would like to find out more information about childhood cancer, please visit

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Image in top header: Luca Boggia-Hall, rare brain tumor survivor, playing in a park and laughing. Picture Courtesy Jason Edwards/Herald Sun