Brain cancer has the highest mortality rate of all childhood cancers in Australia. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports about 40 deaths each year in under 15 year olds. In the UK, brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40.
Associate Professor David Ziegler, senior paediatric oncologist at Kids Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital, will head the clinical trial. He said: “This trial will be focusing on children with the most commonly diagnosed type of brain tumour, low-grade gliomas. Gliomas can be very difficult to treat.
“When a tumour isn’t able to be removed by surgery, the child may face years of treatment and often suffers major morbidities.
“For such patients the only treatment options are cytotoxic chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, resulting in significant short and long term toxicity. We need new treatments that are not only more effective, but also much safer to use in children.”
The trial could help pioneer a safer treatment with far less side effects for children with brain tumours. It uses one of a new generation of drugs called ‘targeted therapies’ which bypass healthy cells and target cancer cells directly.
Ziegler explains that “the targeted therapy we will be testing has been specifically designed to shut off the genetic driver of this type of tumour, and can be taken as a daily pill.
“If shown to be successful, it could replace chemotherapy as the standard treatment for this type of cancer, significantly improving quality of life for survivors.”
The clinical trial is funded by a $1.1 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council. This funding is drawn from a $3 million investment in childhood brain cancer research announced by the Australian Government this week.
A media release put out by The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, stated:
“We will be monitoring the outcomes of this research closely and we look forward to seeing much needed support and access to better treatments roll out to children and their families.”
The Brain Tumour Charity looks forward to seeing the results of this new trial, which could greatly improve the quality of life for children with low-grade gliomas worldwide and boost international research into brain tumours.