Developments in childhood cancers
It is heartening to see momentum around childhood cancers with the Australian Government confirming a dedicated day annually to raise awareness of the impact of childhood brain cancer. The inaugural Childhood Brain Cancer Awareness Day on 26 September highlighted the challenges of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) which is one of the most aggressive cancers to affect children, with no known curative therapies. Different cancers will be highlighted in subsequent years.
This week the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grant round for childhood brain cancer clinical trials will open, with $5 million available for childhood brain cancer clinical trials. Already in our alliance, Dr Misty Jenkins, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research has been successful in gaining $1.4 million in National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding to progress her work designing immunotherapy treatments for adult and paediatric high grade gliomas, including DIPG. Congratulations to Dr Jenkins and her team.
Developments in paediatric oncology
This week, Dr. David Eisenstat, who is internationally regarded in paediatric oncology, is visiting from the University of Alberta, Canada. Much of Dr Eisenstat’s career has been focused on paediatric brain tumours and his lab studies the effects of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, on the developing brain. He will be meeting with staff at The Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) Children's Cancer Centre (CCC) and will give a talk in the VCCC building tomorrow, some of which translates into the area of DIPG. Please come along and make him welcome.
Our work in childhood cancers will also be progressed by a proposed new Chair in Paediatric Oncology and I am excited about successful discussions and planning between The Royal Children’s Hospital Children’s Cancer Centre, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, University of Melbourne and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre helping us to realise this vision.
I am pleased to report that we are also making steady progress in overcoming barriers for young people aged 15-25 with cancer. The VCCC Increasing AYA Access to Clinical Trials Program is developing targeted systems-level solutions to barriers faced by this group of patients. A framework has been developed for AYA ‘craft groups’ within relevant tumour streams, and start-up meetings for acute leukaemia and sarcoma are scheduled for the next few weeks, with further tumour streams to follow.
DHHS external review of the VCCC
I would like to reiterate my personal thanks to all supporters across the alliance and the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for facilitating such a constructive review for the VCCC during the past month. We should all be tremendously proud of what has been achieved in a relatively short period of time.
Coordination and execution of the external review program took significant effort and we appreciated the widespread willingness to contribute. The review involved clinicians, researchers, consumers, students, program coordinators, educators, CEOs, executive teams, scholarship recipients and staff all telling the story of how the investment in the VCCC has enabled collaborative innovations in research development, translation, education, clinical trials, capacity building and systems change. Clear evidence was provided of how this work acts to ultimately improve outcomes for people affected by cancer.
We are now well placed to build on the early learnings and successes of the VCCC into the future and I look forward to sharing the new VCCC Strategic Plan in early 2020.
Professor Grant McArthur