A new arsenal in the fight against childhood cancer

By Rob Clancy, staff writer

As a major centre of childhood cancer research Hudson Institute was proud to play host to the Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, for the announcement of the Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium (VPCC).

The Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt visited the Hudson Institute of Medical Research where he announced the establishment of the Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium (VPCC), a $9.6 million fund to fight childhood cancer.
Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt meets cancer patient Elias Mohibi and his mother Nelly

The Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) has awarded $9.6 million over three years for this new collaboration of Victorian hospitals and research institutes.

Every year, nearly 1,000 Australian children are diagnosed with cancer, making cancer the leading cause of death from disease among the younger age group.

Minister Hunt praised the role of Australian researchers to date and looked forward to more knowledge being uncovered: “We now know that cancer in kids is very different to adult cancer. We urgently need to put children at the heart of these discoveries to improve the lives of our youngest population with cancer, ensuring they can live their lives to the fullest.”

The VPCC will be co-led by Hudson’s own Professor Ron Firestein and Professor David Eisenstat, Head of the Children’s Cancer Centre at The Royal Children’s Hospital and Neuro-Oncology Group Leader at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

This consortium draws together researchers and clinicians across Melbourne’s Monash and Parkville medical precincts, including The Royal Children’s Hospital and Monash Children’s Hospital, working together with researchers at Hudson Institute, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, WEHI, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Monash University and University of Melbourne.

Dr Katie Allen MP, Gladys Liu MP, Hudson CEO Prof Elizabeth Hartland and Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, Gladys Liu MP, Hudson CEO Prof Elizabeth Hartland
L–R: Dr Katie Allen MP, Gladys Liu MP, Hudson CEO Prof Elizabeth Hartland and Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt

Prof Firestein said the VPCC draws together a unique range of research expertise and clinical capabilities: “VPCC will focus on discovery research projects in next-generation precision medicine oncology, tumour immunotherapy and epigenomics. This will be complemented by clinical programs aimed at improving patient survival and minimising late effects and adverse reactions to therapies.”

The VPCC was made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of the Children’s Cancer Foundation and funding from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

“The VPCC brings together many of the best institutes in Victoria to focus on children’s cancer. It is imperative that this cross institutional collaboration is cultivated to ensure our children’s hospitals can continue to provide the very best of clinical care, by rapidly translating leading edge research into bed side treatment. The parents of Victoria expect the very best for their children. This initiative is an excellent start of a process to ensure that our hospitals stay at the forefront of treatment for the decade to come.”

Jeremy Smith, Chairman of the Children’s Cancer Foundation

The VPCC’s research will focus on finding new therapies for cancers with the greatest unmet medical need, including brain, bone and soft tissue cancers which have low survival rates. It will also investigate ways to minimise or prevent severe long-term side effects in children who receive chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Researchers will use a range of cutting-edge technologies and approaches including genomics, drug screening, disease modelling, biobanking, and artificial intelligence driven precision medicine, to find new targets and predict which patients will best respond to therapies. A state-wide registry of child cancer survivors will be expanded to follow up and transition children to adult services.

Director and CEO of Hudson Institute Professor Elizabeth Hartland said: “This initiative will build capacity and sustainability for paediatric cancer research in Victoria by cultivating local, national and international partnerships, supporting educational events and training the childhood cancer leaders of tomorrow.”

Health Minister’s Media Release | Top Victorian researchers join together to fight childhood cancer | Health Portfolio Ministers

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