Between 2010 to 2016, The Kids’ Cancer Project had the foresight to initiate and fund the collaborative efforts of a remarkable group of experts to fight neuroblastoma.
The C4 Group – or Childhood Cancer Cytoskeleton Consortium – was a collaboration of six internationally recognised experts on cancer, the cell skeleton (cytoskeleton), cell biology and gene regulation.
Members of the C4 Group
Professor Peter Gunning, Head of Oncology Research, UNSW
Professor Edna Hardeman, Head of the Neuromuscular and Regenerative Medicine Unit, UNSW
Professor Maria Kavallaris, Head of Tumour Biology and Targeting, CCIA
Professor Alpha Yap, Head of Molecular Cell Biology, University of Queensland
Associate Professor Geraldine O'Neill, Group Leader of the Focal Adhesion Biology, The Children's Hospital at Westmead
Professor Greg Goodall, Head of Gene Regulation, Centre for Cancer Biology, SA Pathology and University of South Australia
Dr Yeesim Khew-Goodall, Head of Cell Signalling, Centre for Cancer Biology, SA Pathology and University of South Australia
Together they spent six years collaborating on investigations into cancer biology, metastasis and therapeutics - three key areas critical in understanding childhood cancer, and in particular neuroblastoma, in order to bring about kinder, more effective treatments.
Members of the Group were able to make exciting discoveries that have been published. The work contributed to a bank of learning that could propel further discovery says Professor Gunning.
Now, as part of the Morrison government’s $180 million investment into ground-breaking medical research, Associate Professor Khew-Goodall, Professor Greg Goodall, Associate Professor Quenten Schwarz and their associates have received additional, substantial funding to build on those findings to get closer to more effective and less toxic cancer care for children diagnosed with neuroblastoma.
But it’s all thanks to the early funding from The Kids’ Cancer Project says Associate Professor Khew-Goodall.
“Our success in securing more than $2M in government funding for two studies has been made possible because of the seed-funding from The Kids’ Cancer Project in the early days,” she says.
“We are very grateful to The Kids’ Cancer Project and their donors and want to thank them for believing in and supporting our work."
“With this funding, we are very excited that we will be able to set up a program in neuroblastoma research and hopefully be able to take it somewhere significant to benefit patients,” says Associate Professor Khew-Goodall.
The team at SA Pathology and University of South Australia were introduced to the C4 Group by Professor Peter Gunning who was thrilled to hear about their successful grant applications.
The University of NSW Professor is in fact credited as having inspired Col Reynolds OAM to start the charity almost 30 years ago.
“This is great news and a credit to the quality of the research that both Associate Professor Khew-Goodall and Professor Goodall have been conducting for the past decade,” says Professor Gunning.
“This is exactly what we were hoping for all those years ago. C4 was created to bring innovative approaches to childhood cancer. Identify the talent, support them and breakthroughs will happen. Yeesim and Greg are testament to the power of this approach,” he says.
The funding that's taking the work of the C4 Group to new heights
Medical Research Future Fund | 2020 Childhood Cancer Research Grant Opportunity
RECIPIENT: University of South Australia
STUDY: ABOLISH Neuroblastoma: Defining the Aetiology and underlying BiOLogy of neuroblastoma to Innovate and SHape new options for prevention, diagnosis and treatment
FUNDING: $1.42 million
- Neuroblastoma can be divided into low-, intermediate- or high-risk disease, with vastly different prognosis associated with each risk category
- 50-70% of patients present as high-risk at diagnosis and only about 50% of these patients will survive beyond 5 years
- Currently, these patients are treated with surgery to remove as much tumour as possible followed by highly toxic chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Due to the young age of these patients (average age of diagnosis is between one to two years), even those who recover can suffer subsequent profound life-long disabilities and a predisposition to other cancers caused by the treatment
- However, the current determination of risk is based on a complicated system incorporating patient age, how the tumour looks, the presence or absence of the few known genetic factors and whether the cancer can be completely removed (ie. whether it has spread from its original site of occurrence) with few links to the molecular identities of the tumours
- Because neuroblastoma is a highly heterogeneous disease – even within the high-risk category, there are multiple sub-groups and this contributes to the unpredictability of treatment outcomes
- This MRFF grant will enable us to identify molecular drivers of the different forms of high-risk neuroblastoma by examining hundreds of patients’ tumours
- Defining the drivers of high-risk neuroblastoma will enable us to identify and tailor more targeted and more effective therapy towards each sub-group and alleviate the immediate and long-term morbidities caused by the current highly toxic treatments
Medical Research Future Fund | 2020 Stem Cell Therapies Mission Grant Opportunity
RECIPIENT: University of South Australia
STUDY: Identification and assessment of new treatment options for the childhood cancer neruoblastoma
- Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system, a division of the nervous system that enables us to adjust to changes in our environment (eg. sweating when hot and changes in heart rates) and is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response
- Formation of the sympathetic nervous system occurs in embryos pre-birth and occurs through a complex series of cell changes that takes an unspecialised stem cell to a highly specialised nerve cell through a process that is called ‘differentiation’
- During the process of differentiation, the cells of the intermediate stages multiply to produce daughter cells, which only stops when the mature nerve cell stage is attained
- Neuroblastoma is a cancer that results from a failure of complete differentiation from stem cell to nerve cell, so the intermediate cells continue to multiply and form a tumour mass
- In this study funded by the MRFF, we will genetically engineer human induced-pluripotent stem cells at different stages of the differentiation process to incorporate the genetic changes previously identified in high-risk neuroblastoma
- We will use these genetically engineered stem cells as mimics of the disease to study how these genetic changes affect the tumour growth and progression
- We will also use these genetically engineered stem cells to screen FDA-approved drugs that may be effective against neuroblastoma with the engineered genetic markers. This will enable us to fast-track and re-purpose ‘new’ drugs into the clinic for treatment of neuroblastoma