The Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia
Finding a Cure for Neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is the most common solid tumour in early childhood.
Cancer is the largest killer of children from disease in Australia. Although the survival rate has increased from zero 60 years ago to over 80 per cent today. 625 children are still diagnosed with this disease each year in Australia, with many more in hospital undergoing treatment every day. Of these, sadly, each week on average nearly three children will lose their battle with this awful disease. Neuroblastoma is the most common solid tumour in early childhood, and accounts for 15% of all childhood cancer deaths. Neuroblastomas normally affect children under the age of 5, predominantly infants.
Neuroblastomas arise from immature nerve cells, and can grow in any part of the body where nerves exist.
At present, neuroblastomas are treated as one disease, although we now know there are several subtypes, which behave very differently. Some neuroblastomas grow quickly and kill swiftly, while others do not. Understanding each child’s disease will help us prescribe the drugs that will have the most beneficial effect.
Bright Blue funding has allowed the Children’s Cancer Institute research team, led by Dr Tao Liu, to take ‘snapshots’ of gene expressions within tumours.
We have confirmed the abnormal expression of three genes, one from each of three sub-groups of neuroblastoma patients. In all cases, the genes are ‘overexpressed’, or over-active, helping the cancers survive and spread.
Children’s Cancer Institute researchers are identifying specific molecules to target these overexpressed genes in order to kill tumour cells and stop cancer spread.
We are confident that it will soon be possible to analyse each child’s neuroblastoma with next generation RNA-sequencing technology, identifying the sub-group to which they belong, according to their tumour’s molecular profile. This will eventually allow clinicians to treat each disease with the right combination of drugs, helping to improve and prolong the lives of children with neuroblastoma.
Children’s Cancer Institute is the only independent medical research institute in Australia wholly dedicated to childhood cancer. Our focus is on translational research, making sure our discoveries are moved from the “bench to the bedside” to develop new and improved treatments for kids with cancer as quickly as possible.
Our partnership with Bright Blue is so important as we strive towards our goal of curing childhood cancer.
It’s not if, it’s when.
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