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Adelaide researchers fight deadly childhood cancer

Adelaide oncologists fight deadly childhood cancer
Photo: Researchers fight deadly childhood cancer
Adelaide oncologists will use $2.4 million of funding to investigate the causes and treatments for the deadliest and most common solid tumour in young children.

Adelaide oncologists and researchers will use $2.4 million in funding to work with families to understand and fight a common and deadly childhood cancer.

Two separate projects funded from the Federal government's Medical Research Future Fund will address neuroblastoma, a solid tumour which accounts for 15 per cent of all childhood cancer deaths.

One study led by Professor Yeesim Khew-Goodall will try to identify the molecular drivers of neuroblastoma using patient data.

Professor Khew-Goodall said the cancer typically affected children under the age of five years and for high-risk scenarios children needed to undergo multiple rounds of therapy.
"Due to the young age of the children and the high toxicity of current treatments, which include chemotherapy and radiation therapy, those who survive can end up with debilitating side effects that stay with them for life," she said.

Professor Khew-Goodall's study will prioritise trying to predict which patients will or will not respond to current treatments.

"At the moment, we have a sledgehammer approach towards treating neuroblastoma that can lead to developmental effects, including deafness, and problems with speech, mobility and cognition," she said.

Less than half of high-risk patients live five years after their neuroblastoma diagnosis.

The other study, led by Professor Quenten Schwarz will try to find more effective drugs to fight the cancer by using genetically engineered stem cells to model the fetal origins of the disease.

"Stem cell modelling will help us mimic the disease process so that we can understand how different genetic alterations drive different forms of this cancer," Professor Schwarz said. "A major flaw of current treatment strategies is that they fail to treat the underlying cause of tumour growth."

The researchers will work with the families of current patients over the next three years, combining laboratory studies with patient profiling.

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