Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium

Hudson Institute of Medical Research is a co-leader of the Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium (VPCC), alongside The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), Monash Children’s Hospital (MCH), Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), Monash University, University of Melbourne, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) and the Children’s Cancer Foundation.

Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium team
Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium team

VPCC brings together leading children’s hospitals, medical research institutes and universities, each with unique capabilities in paediatric cancer research and clinical care. VPCC enables a state-wide, multidisciplinary, and collaborative approach to combatting childhood cancers, with the goal of improving outcomes for children and adolescents with cancer through world-class medical research and innovation. Learn more about VPCC.

Next Generation Precision Medicine Program

A flagship research program of VPCC is the Next Generation Precision Medicine Program, led by Hudson Institute’s Professor Ron Firestein who is clinician-scientist and the Head of the Centre for Cancer Research at Hudson Institute.

There is an urgent need for new and more precisely targeted medicines to treat childhood cancers. Currently, genomic sequencing is used to identify discrete mutations that could predict a child’s responses to targeted therapies. But fewer than one in five children with cancer are found to have actionable mutations. And of those children, only half respond to the therapies that are available.

New treatment options are needed, particularly for paediatric cancers that have the poorest survival rates (ie; brain and soft tissue tumours).

The Next Generation Precision Medicine Program is focused on

  • Generating novel models of childhood cancers that faithfully represent a patient’s tumour
  • Characterising those models at a multi-omics level (genome, transcriptome, epigenome, proteome) to find what makes them unique
  • Using comprehensive functional genomic screens that can identify the genetic drivers and dependencies of low-survival paediatric cancers
  • Developing a childhood cell line atlas and data portal to enable cohort-level integrative genomic analyses.

This program has created the Childhood Cancer Model Atlas (CCMA): the largest collection of high-risk paediatric solid tumour cell lines in the world and one of the most valuable resources available now for childhood cancer researchers globally. The CCMA provides a collection of well annotated and characterised models of childhood cancer with associated functional genomics screens. It includes a searchable data portal that can be accessed by scientists and researchers worldwide.Precise, detailed data like this helps researchers to collaborate globally and drive clinical translation to help sick children. Learn more about VPCC Next Generation Precision Medicine Program.

Risk Stratification – Sarcomas Program

Sarcomas are a rare type of cancer that originate in the connective tissue of the body, which includes fat, muscle, bone and cartilage. Sarcomas can develop anywhere in the body and are one of the most common types of solid tumours in children.

Survival rates for childhood sarcomas haven’t improved in more than 40 years.

The VPCC Risk Stratification -Sarcomas project – led by Hudson Institute’s Dr Jason Cain – is focused on finding molecular signatures that predict a child’s response to therapy, risk of metastasis and survival outcomes. Identifying these factors would enable clinicians to stratify children’s risk in the future, and then adapt therapies to minimise side effects and improve overall outcomes.

As a Research Group Head in the Centre for Cancer Research at Hudson Institute, Dr Cain leads research mainly on paediatric sarcomas (malignant rhabdoid tumours and osteosarcomas), diffuse midline gliomas and lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD). Learn more about VPCC Risk Stratification Sarcomas Program.

VPCC co-leads

Professor Ron Firestein, Hudson Institute
Professor David Eisenstat, The Royal Children’s Hospital and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
Program Manager, Eliza Metcalfe
Director of Operations, Naama Neeman

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).

Supporters

Children's cancer foundation logo
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre Logo
Murdoch Children's Research Institute Logo
Monash Children's Hospital Logo
Monash University Logo
The Royal Children's Hospital Logo
WEHI Logo
Th University of Melbourne Logo

Contact

Naama Neeman
VPCC, Director of Operations
e: naama.neeman@hudson.org.au

Endocrine Hypertension Service

The Endocrine Hypertension Service was established in July 2017 and operates on Thursday mornings and alternate Wednesday mornings in the Department of Endocrinology, on Level 3, Block E, Monash Medical Centre.

This clinic has been established to facilitate the diagnosis and management of endocrine causes of hypertension, with a particular focus on primary aldosteronism.

We have the capacity to review patients frequently for medication adjustments and blood pressure monitoring during the diagnostic process.

For patients who are found to have aldosterone producing adenomas, we can facilitate medical stabilisation prior to surgery.

Referrals can be faxed to Ms Elise Forbes (dedicated clinic nurse) on (03) 9594-3558.

High blood pressure and primary aldosteronism explained

VIEW VIDEO | Dr Jun Yang discusses her research in primary aldosteronism, a common, potentially curable but often neglected form of high blood pressure.

READ MORE | FAQ for patients

READ MORE | Primary Aldosteronism Foundation

Primary Aldosteronism Centre of Excellence (PACE)

The Primary Aldosteronism Centre of Excellence (PACE) is an inter-disciplinary and trans-national collaboration established in December 2018 to build capacity in the field of primary aldosteronism (PA) research in Australia and address knowledge gaps using a systematic and evidence-based approach.

PACE is built on existing collaborations and led by internationally respected clinician-scientists in PA-related research in Australia, including Professor Peter Fuller from Hudson Institute of Medical Research/Monash Health, Professor Michael Stowasser and Dr Martin Wolley from Queensland University, who have published extensively in the field and set the standards for PA management in Australia. PACE also has the support of world leaders in cardiovascular endocrinology, resistant hypertension research and cardiovascular epidemiology, A/Professor Morag Young (Baker Institute), Professor Markus Schlaich (University of Western Australia), Professor Trevor Mori (University of Western Australia) and Professor Christopher Reid (Curtin University); primary care health services researcher, Professor Grant Russell (Monash University); health economist, A/Professor Gang Chen; and senior biostatistician, Dr StellaMay Gwini (Monash University/Barwon Health).

Our goals

  • Optimise the timely and accurate diagnosis of PA through high quality, collaborative research and transformation of clinical practice guidelines and diagnostic methods;
  • identify genetic and environmental factors, as well as novel biomarkers, that will underpin personalized diagnostic tests and therapeutics in the prevention and management of PA; and
  • create translational research environments and develop clinical trial platforms to build the capacity for world-leading PA research by Australian clinicians and scientists.

Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program

The Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine (HMPPM) Program hopes to significantly improve treatment for childhood cancer patients with the greatest unmet clinical need – those diagnosed with brain cancers and solid tumours. The program was established in 2017 with investment from the Children’s Cancer Foundation.

Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program team
Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program team

In a collaborative program, scientists at Hudson Institute of Medical Research have established a living biobank of paediatric brain tumours and solid cancers, to trial and develop targeted treatments and improve clinical outcomes, survival rates and quality of life (limiting side-effects) for childhood cancer patients.

Innovation in the making  

The HMPPM Program marks a significant investment in future clinical management and novel research discovery in childhood cancer. The program includes:

The development of a living tumour biobank for paediatric solid tumours

At present, very few reliable patient-derived preclinical models are available to researchers. To bridge this gap, our program establishes and banks cell lines, 2D and 3D xenograft models directly from childhood tumour tissue. The establishment of a living biobank for paediatric solid tumours provides a critical renewable resource for local, national and international researchers.

The establishment of a functional genomics pipeline

We capitalise on the living biobank tumour samples to integrate genomic data (next generation sequencing) with functional data obtained from high-throughput genetic screening (Cas9/CRISPR) and results from global pharmacological drug screens.

Multi-dimensional analyses of paediatric cancers

We will comprehensively profile paediatric cancers (both tissue and matched model) in 4 dimensions (genomic, epigenomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic) to provide both gene-specific and pathway level analyses of paediatric tumours. This work enables both a richer biological understanding of paediatric cancers and facilitates the utilisation of diverse molecular variables in cancer precision medicine.

Translation of genomic data into targeted therapy

The comprehensive molecular analysis of individual patient tumours will help identify both new and existing therapies that can be rapidly implemented in the clinic. This approach will facilitate clinical implications of data from the functional genomics pipeline for individual paediatric patients.

Molecular Tumour Board (MTB): integrating findings into clinical management

Working in collaboration with the Zero Childhood Cancer (ZCC) and PRISM program (zerochildhoodcancer.org.au), the paediatric cancer molecular MTB will integrate molecular and functional diagnostic assays into clinical management of childhood cancer patients, by providing expertise and recommendations on the clinical implications of findings that arise from molecular analyses.

Unique national and global collaborations

The establishment of a living biobank and functional genomic testing for paediatric solid tumours provides a critical resource for local, national and international researchers. Thus, a key element of the program includes national and international stakeholders’ involvement to build expertise, share resources and disseminate results that will advance the field of precision medicine for paediatric cancer patients. For more information, see the Affiliations and Partners section below.

Progress to Date

To date, we have collected tissue samples from 223 patients (including collaborator sites) and successfully established 3-dimensional cell cultures (‘organoids’) of paediatric solid tumours as well as 2-dimensional cell cultures. We have conducted over 200 high-throughput drug screens and identified a number of promising therapeutic targets for paediatric brain cancers and sarcomas.

Our scientific team has streamlined the process of drug screening (within a few weeks post sample collection), data generation and integrative analysis to efficiently identify cancer dependencies for individual patients; and have devised a functional genomics pipeline that generates CRISPR loss of function sensitivity data for patient-derived cell lines.

Other research directed at molecular and cell pathways, with investigation into pharmacogenomics, diversity of cancer genetics, pluripotent stem cells is underway, and offers excellent opportunities for young researchers.

Members

Program leadership

Prof Ron Firestein | Head of Research and Chief Investigator
Dr Jason Cain | Chief Investigator
Dr Daniel Gough | Chief Investigator
Prof Annie Huang | Chief Investigator
Dr Peter Downie | Head of Clinical Enterprise
Naama Neeman | VPCC, Director of Operations
Prof Bryan Williams | Strategic Advisor

Research team

Dr Paul Daniel | Children’s Cancer Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Rajithri (Dilru) Habarakada | Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation Senior Biobank Specialist
Dr Claire Sun | Children’s Cancer Foundation Bioinformatician
Dr Nicole Chew | Children’s Cancer Foundation Senior Organoid Specialist
Dr Nataliya Zhukova | VPCC PhD Student
Dr Paul Wood | Paediatric Oncologist
Melissa Loi | Children’s Cancer Foundation Technical Sequencing Specialist
Dr Yuqing Liang | Children’s Cancer Foundation PhD Student
Sarah Parackal | Children’s Cancer Foundation PhD Student
Dasun Fernando | PhD Student
Motahhareh (Flora) Tourchi | PhD Student
Mia Pörksen | Internship
Shazia Adjumain | Gideon Gratzer PhD Scholar – funded by Robert Connor Dawes Foundation
Samitha Amarapathy | PhD Student – Monash University, Faculty of IT
Prof Roger Daly | Molecular analysis group (proteomics)
Prof Roger Reddel | Molecular analysis group (proteomics)
Vanessa Tsui | Postdoctoral Researcher, Functional Genomics – funded by Robert Connor Dawes Foundation

Administrative support

Monty Panday | Database Manager
Steph Forman | Personal Assistant to Prof Ron Firestein

Affiliations and partners

Zero Childhood Cancer (Children’s Cancer Institute)
Australian and New Zealand Children’s Haematology/Oncology Group (ANZCHOG)
Monash University
Monash Health
Monash Children’s Hospital
The Royal Children’s Hospital
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
Queensland Institute of Medical Research Berghofer

International partnerships

Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium (CBTTC)
Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
University of Santa Cruz
Hubrecht Institute
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, VIVA Foundation for Children with Cancer
German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ)
Beijing Genomic Institute (BGI)

Funding sources   

The Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program is made possible thanks to generous and exclusive funding from the Children’s Cancer Foundation.

Funder Children's Cancer Foundation

We are also thankful for the support of the Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation (ALCCRF) and the Robert Connor Dawes (RCD) Foundation.

Funders ALCCRF

Contact

Naama Neeman
VPCC, Director of Operations
Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program
e: naama.neeman@hudson.org.au

Paediatric Cancer Research Program

The Paediatric Cancer Research Program is a collaborative Melbourne-based initiative

Bringing together researchers and clinicians across Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Monash Children’s Hospital, Monash Children’s Cancer Centre and Monash University.

Together, our common objective is to improve outcomes in children diagnosed with cancer through innovative research into the development and progression of these diseases and identification of new and more effective therapeutic strategies.

In 2015 in Victoria alone, 156 children under the age of 14 years old and 246 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15-24 years old were diagnosed with cancer*. Despite a >80% survival rate, many patients will suffer permanent side effects of their disease and/or treatments. The predicted increase in new cancer diagnoses (53%) and deaths (25%) in Victoria over the next 10-15 years* highlights the urgent need for researchers and clinicians to join forces to improve understanding of paediatric cancers and translate these findings into the clinic.

*Cancer Council Victoria.

The Paediatric Cancer Research Program aims to significantly contribute to the understanding of all childhood cancer. The expanding profile of research interests currently include:

‒ Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumour (AT/RT)
‒ Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG)
‒ Ependymoma
‒ Leukaemia
‒ Malignant Rhabdoid Tumour (MRT)
‒ Medulloblastoma
‒ Neuroblastoma
‒ Sarcoma’s (including Osteosarcoma)
‒ Wilm’s tumour
‒ Paediatric Cancer Precision Medicine
‒ Paediatric Cancer Tissue Banking and Model Development
‒ Molecular Profiling of Brain and CNS Malignancies

For more information on our research, please click on the member links below.

Members

Dr Beena Kumar (Principal investigator Monash Surgical Oncology Biobank/ Monash Children’s Cancer Biobank)
Prof Bryan Williams (Emeritus Director and Distinguished Scientist, Hudson Institute; Research Group Head, Cancer and Innate Immunity; Strategic Advisor, Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program)
Dr Paul Wood (Paediatric Oncologist, Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program)
Dr Christine White (Honorary Research Associate, Genetics and Molecular Pathology)
Dr Daniel Gough (Research Group Head, STAT Signalling Laboratory; Chief Investigator, Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program)
Dasun Fernando (PhD student, Cancer and Innate Immunity)
A/Prof Elizabeth Algar (Research Group Head, Genetics and Molecular Pathology)
Dr Jason Cain (Research Group Head, Developmental and Cancer Biology; Chief Investigator, Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program)
Naama Neeman (Head of Operations, VPCC)
Dr Nataliya Zhukova (VPCC PhD Student; Research Scientist, Developmental and Cancer Biology)
Dr Peter Downie (Head, Monash Children’s Cancer Centre; Head of Clinical Enterprise and Chief Investigator, Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program)
Prof Ron Firestein (Centre Head, Centre for Cancer Research; Head of Research and Chief Investigator, Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program; Co-lead, Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium)
Sarah Parackal (Children’s Cancer Foundation PhD Student, Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program/Developmental and Cancer Biology)
Dr Sara Khan (Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation Fellow)
Dr Vijesh Vaghjiani (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Developmental and Cancer Biology)
Shaye Game (PhD student, Development and Cancer Biology)
Christie Sun (PhD student, Development and Cancer Biology)
Vanessa Tsui (Postdoctoral Researcher, Functional Genomics)
Dr Yuqing Liang (Children’s Cancer Foundation PhD Student, Hudson Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program)

Affiliations and Partners

Centre for Cancer Research, Hudson Institute of Medical Research
Monash Children’s Hospital
Monash Children’s Cancer Centre, Monash Health
Genetics and Molecular Pathology, Monash Health
Monash Children’s Cancer Biobank, Monash Health
Monash University

Funding Sources

National Health & Medical Research Council
Monash Comprehensive Cancer Consortium
Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation
Australasian Sarcoma Study Group
Bailey’s Day
Children’s Cancer Foundation
The Robert Connor Dawes Foundation (RCD Foundation)
The Cure Starts Now: Australia
Isabella and Marcus Foundation
Victoria Cancer Agency

In the news

Herald Sun: ‘A fight for the kids,’ 4 October 2014
Herald Sun: ‘Cancer battle can’t conquer little Zac,’ 18 October 2014
ALCCRF Newsletter: ‘ALCCRF Fellowship,’ August 2015
Herald Sun: ‘Children with common brain tumour to have routine analysis under national service,’ 27 September 2016
Ten Eyewitness NEWS: ‘Cancer Fight,’ 27 September 2016
7 NEWS: 27 September 2016
Hudson News (summer edition): ‘Australian first – crucial service to help children with brain tumours,’ 3 November 2016
ALCCRF Newsletter: ‘Appointment of ALCCRF Clinical Research Fellow at Monash
Children’s Hospital and Hudson Institute of Medical Research,’ June 2016