In Focus: The Children’s Hospital at Westmead

The entrance to The Children's Hospital at Westmead
Learn more about the institutes we support through our In Focus series.

The Cancer Centre for Children at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead is the largest childhood paediatric cancer department, with the busiest referral centre, in New South Wales. 

Each year in New South Wales approximately 250 new children are diagnosed with cancer.  The Cancer Centre for Children at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead is responsible for the care of between 120 and 160 of these new patients and their families. 

The Cancer Centre for Children at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead is a member of several international clinical trials groups, including the USA-based Children's Oncology Group (COG) and the Australian Children's Cancer Trials (ACCT) network. All of our clinical activity is underpinned by a clinical-trial-centred approach, and of the 160 new patients presenting every year, just over half are enrolled in a clinical trial. Today, we are running 60 clinical trials looking at: acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, quality of life in cancer patients, brain cancer, cancer of the central nervous system, eye cancer, germ cell cancer, haematological cancer, leukaemia, recurrent relapsed low grade gliomas, sarcomas and Wilm’s tumour.

Meet the scientists we've funded at The Children's Hospital at Westmead

Associate Professor Geraldine O’Neill

Geraldine O'Neill is Group Leader of the Focal Adhesion Biology (FAB) group and holds a Conjoint Associate Professor appointment at the University of Sydney. She has attracted over $3.5 million in peer-reviewed funding from national (NHMRC), specialist (Cancer Council and Cancer Institute NSW) and local agencies, contributed highly cited research publications and formed international and national collaborations. Major awards received during her research career include an NHMRC Howard Florey Centenary Research Fellowship (2001 - 2002), NSW Cancer Council Career Development Fellowship (2003 - 2008) and AIPS Young Tall Poppy Award (2006).

Regard for her research is reflected by invited speaker presentations at national conferences and at international and national institutes and leadership roles in major national conferences including symposia chair and stream coordinator. She was a Principal Investigator of The Kids' Cancer Project Childhood Cancer Cytoskeleton Consortium (C4) and of the Brain Cancer Discovery Collaborative.

The central theme of Professor O'Neill's research is to understand how cancer cell interaction with the surrounding matrix leads to the progression to metastatic disease, one of the major causes of cancer patient mortality. Her team investigates the cell biology of cancer cell invasion, with a particular focus on brain tumours and neuroblastoma. 

Read more: 3D printers and mini-brains.

Dr Luciano Dalla-Pozza

Dr Luciano Dalla-Pozza is Director of the Cancer Centre for Children at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. He has extensive clinical experience and leadership of one of the largest children’s oncology units in Australia. He is a Board Member of the Children’s Medical Research Institute and Australasian Children’s Cancer Trials Network.  He is the Chair of the Expert Reference Group for the Optimal Care Pathways for Leukaemia, Solid Tumours and Brain Tumours.  He is a member of the NSW Child Death Review Team (Office of the NSW Ombudsman).  He is co-chair of the Australian and New Zealand Children’s Haematology-Oncology Group (ANZCHOG) trial for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (Study X) with the national data management centre centred within the Cancer Centre for Children at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

Read more: Next gen sequencing to identify gene mutations in childhood cancer patients.

Dr Belinda Kramer

Belinda has been working to implement gene therapy strategies to treat childhood cancers for over 10 years.  Her current focus is the gene modification of immune cells to specifically target bone and brain tumours. 

The immune cells are removed from the patient, and a gene that encodes for a tumour targeting molecule is inserted into them to direct them to the tumour cells, and then they are transplanted back into the patient. To do this, she and her team have developed a vector under cleanroom conditions that will expose the cells to the modified genes.

Working mainly in the laboratory, Dr Kramer is collaborating widely with other researchers and clinicians in the Children’s Cancer Centre and the Gene Therapy Research Unit at Kids Research to bring this revolutionary project to fruition.

Read more: Development of CAR T cell immunotherapies for paediatric patients.

Dr Geoff McCowage

Geoff is a Paediatric Oncologist at The Children's Hospital at Westmead and a member of Sydney Cell and Gene Therapy (SCGT). He is a Principal Investigator for clinical trials within the Children's Oncology Group. He has a particular clinical interest in neuro-oncology and sarcomas of bone and soft tissue. Dr McCowage leads the clinical and translational research of the Cancer Gene Therapy group.

Read more: Development of CAR T cell immunotherapies for paediatric patients.

Professor Jennifer Byrne

Jennifer Byrne has spent her scientific career analyzing childhood and adult cancers at a molecular level. Her PhD studies mapped loss of chromosome 11p15 loci in embryonal tumours, and she then identified a novel gene family during postdoctoral studies in France. Professor Byrne is Head of the Children’s Cancer Research Unit at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, and Professor of Molecular Oncology in the Discipline of Child and Adolescent Health, Sydney Medical School. She was recognised as one of Nature's "ten people who mattered in 2017".

Professor Byrne's research interests include the regulation of lipid metabolism and lipid storage in cancer cells, the identification of cancer predisposition genes and predictive biomarkers in childhood cancer patients, and the improvement of cancer biobank operations.

Read more: Next gen sequencing to identify gene mutations in childhood cancer patients.

Associate Professor Daniel Catchpoole

Associate Professor Catchpoole has 20 years full-time laboratory research experience into the molecular basis of paediatric malignancies. He also has extensive experience with the analysis of gene expression as well as cellular and molecular applications associated with research into acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Since completing his undergraduate degree in 1987, Associate Professor Catchpoole’s scientific achievements and publications have centred on paediatric malignancy, specifically acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and neuroblastoma, as well as cancer prone syndromes in children, namely Beckwith Wiedemann syndrome.

Associate Professor Catchpoole was appointed Head of the Tumour Bank at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in 2001 and is one of the founding members of the Australian Biospecimens Network - Associate Professor Catchpoole has established microarray technology within the Children’s Cancer Research Unit of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

Read more: Tumour Bank at Children's Hospital at Westmead.

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