On 1 July 2018, The Kids’ Cancer Project made a $7.59 million multi-year funding commitment. It’s a bold step forward for the independent national charity that started 25 years ago. Here, Chief Executive Owen Finegan, shares what led to that decision and how the $40 million that has already been distributed to scientific research to date is making an impact.
Our 5-year plan
At the beginning of the new financial year, we were very happy to announce that from 2019 – 2023, we aim to deliver over $25 million into bold scientific research that has the greatest chance of clinical success in the improvement of treatments of childhood cancers.
This is our commitment to every family affected by childhood cancer, that we will be unrelenting in the search to find kinder, more effective treatments for the 950 children diagnosed with cancer every year.
Funding to date
Because our funding goes towards some of the hardest to treat cancers, we need to take a long view of science. If we look at the 17-year period between 2005 – 2022, we will have invested $44.4 million in research.
From FY2018 to FY2022 The Kids’ Cancer Project has committed $11.19 million to scientific studies, including a $1.402 million pledge to the Australian Brain Cancer Mission in the four year period.
Read more: Collaboration key to cure
The Kids’ Cancer Project is currently funding 29 research projects across 18 institutions; in fact, through generous donor support the charity can now claim to fund a study in every state of Australia.
Add all the scientists involved in those funded projects together, and it comes to a community of 33 brilliant minds, tirelessly working toward the charity’s vision of 100 per cent survival of all children diagnosed with cancer.
Cumulative collaborative funding
There is a saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”, which The Kids’ Cancer Project has adopted with a twist, “It takes a village to save a child from cancer”. We are incredibly excited that by collaborating with major scientific concerns such as Cancer Australia’s Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme, the Australian Brain Cancer Mission, and the Children’s Cancer Institute Zero Childhood Cancer program, the $6.29 million we have invested in these projects, has seen over $153.5 million in collaborative research funding toward childhood cancer research.
Read more: It takes two and sometimes many more
What’s even more gratifying about this is that The Kids’ Cancer Project have often taken on a pioneering role. Through the expert recommendations of our Research Advisory Committee (RAC), we look to support new and original scientific approaches - the type of projects that other funding bodies may shy away from until the thinking is more mainstream.
Then, with published findings of work funded by The Kids’ Cancer Project, they are able to seek more support. This is essentially what happened with the Zero Childhood Cancer program. Our funding of that work commenced in 2014. Since then, an additional $42 million in support from government bodies and funding partners has gone toward that program.
Emphasising clinical trials
In the past 5 years, The Kids’ Cancer Project has supported eight clinical trials.
Dr Chris Fraser, an oncologist based at Lady Cilento Children's Hospital, Brisbane and the chair of the Australian and New Zealand Children's Haematology/Oncology Group (ANZCHOG), recently impressed upon me that clinical trials are the cornerstone of improvements in childhood cancer survival rates.
Their importance is only increasing as we strive to understand the potential of the new generation of molecularly targeted anti-cancer therapies to further increase survival rates and minimise harmful effects of treatment.
So, as part of the new multi-year funding commitment, the charity will be putting even greater emphasis on funding clinical trials in recognition of the vital step they play in helping children with cancer today as well as in the future.
In FY2018 – FY2019 the charity is funding four clinical trials, three of which are through the Australian and New Zealand Children's Haematology/Oncology Group (ANZCHOG), which is the leading body representing the interests of Australian and New Zealand children and adolescents with blood diseases and cancer.
Read more: In Focus: ANZCHOG
The Kids’ Cancer Project supports ANZCHOG across three key priority activities as part of a national research and clinical trials portfolio for Australian children with cancer.
- Supporting access to international clinical trials
- Establishing frameworks for coordinated collection of data
- Establishment of paediatric/AYA biobanking network
Translational childhood cancer research
The Kids’ Cancer Project has invested over $2.95 million into biobanking projects and currently funds the National Tumour Biobanking Network. Biobanking is the collection and storage of tumour tissue – with the data available to national and international cancer researchers.
Biobanking is an important tool in the discovery of kinder, more effective treatments for children, as it allows the translation of the biological facts gained from laboratory studies into information that will help clinicians better diagnose and treat young patients on the ward.
Read more: Translational Cancer Research: Taking treatment from bench to bedside.
My sincere thanks goes out to the families cruelly affected by childhood cancer who have chosen to support this charity and continue to work with us as we achieve our mission. Thank you also to all the donors, fundraisers, corporate supporters and partners who will one day make childhood cancer something only read about in history books.
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