Neuroblastoma Australia has donated over $1.7 million to neuroblastoma research projects.
Where does the money raised go?
Funds from our events and donations go to specific neuroblastoma research projects conducted by leading research institutes such as:
- the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Victoria
- the Kids Cancer Centre and UNSW Sydney
- the Children’s Cancer Institute (CCI) in Randwick and
- the Cancer Council (NSW).
Why we need your support
Despite what people may expect, children’s cancer research is far less well funded that adult cancer.
The children affected by neuroblastoma are on average just two years old. They are too little to represent themselves and one in two children diagnosed with aggressive neuroblastoma will not survive.
More children under five die from neuroblastoma than from any other cancer and one in three who do survive, will continue to suffer side effects from their actual treatment.
More research is desperately needed to find more effective treatments so 100% of children diagnosed with neuroblastoma survive to live long and healthy lives.
Current research projects
The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
The development of new and more effective therapies is key to improving the outcomes for children with this devastating disease.
The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre has pioneered the use of peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) in neuroblastoma as an alternative therapy, especially in cases that have failed conventional treatment approaches.
Under the leadership of Prof Rod Hicks Molecular Imaging and Targeted Therapies Laboratory Division of Cancer Research, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre aims to generate a more faithful model of NMYC driven neuroblastoma for therapeutic testing (by transfecting tumour cells arising from MYCN mice with a key receptor) to evaluate the efficacy of radionuclide therapy alone and in combination with other therapies.
The availability of a preclinical model that more fully resembles the features of human neuroblastoma and that can exist in the context of an intact immune system will provide an invaluable tool to develop novel combination therapies using PRRT.
The Kids Cancer Centre and UNSW Sydney
Improving the long-term health of Australian childhood cancer survivors.
While it is critical we continue to support research projects designed to improve the survival rates of children diagnosed with neuroblastoma, many children who do survive face ongoing physical and emotional health complications. These are often referred to as ‘late effects’.
Current treatments, while necessary, are often too toxic for young children and can have permanent detrimental side effects, such as hearing loss, infertility and can in some instances cause secondary cancers to develop later on.
The leading causes of death in survivors of childhood cancer are recurrence (55%), late effects (17%), and second malignancies (12%).
As of 2019 we will be funding the creation of the first Australian database recording long term effects of childhood cancer treatments on survivors.
This information will to help specialists to adjust, refine and identify treatment regimes; ensuring their effectiveness in treating children with neuroblastoma whilst reducing long term survivor risks. It will also help identify effective follow-up services for survivors to help survivors of neuroblastoma to thrive post treatment.
Children’s Cancer Institute
We currently support the following research projects at the CCI:
- CBL137 single agent clinical trials
- CBL137 in combination with other targeted therapies
- Characterisation of high-risk neuroblastoma models to support translational research
- Optimisation of high-risk neuroblastoma model development
- Improved preclinical efficacy of CBL0137 by combination with HDAC inhibition
What is CBL137?
CBL137 is a novel drug developed for adult cancer in USA. It had not been tested for childhood cancer until the CCI looked at its qualities to target neuroblastoma tumours; specifically, those types of neuroblastoma that are linked to the MYCN gene which produces a protein in high volumes that is proven to create the metabolic environment for this cancer to grow aggressively.
Early results in laboratory models show the effectiveness of CBL137 in reducing aggressive neuroblastoma tumours. Not only does this research indicate the drug is very effective at reducing the cancer when used in combination with chemotherapy, but also that CBL137 does so with few damaging side effects because it does not damage DNA. It is DNA damage that is responsible for these side effects and if CBL137 can mean the cancer can be treated with lower dosages of toxic chemotherapy then this will not only improve cure rates but also reduce long term damage to the children treated.
The research project involved identifying whether this drug could be effective in treating high-risk neuroblastoma in laboratory models as a single agent, at the next stage this single agent will go to a phase one clinical trial to confirm the acceptable dosage of CBL137 to treat this aggressive cancer in children.
1. CBL137 single agent clinical trials
CBL137 is in clinical trial for adults in USA and Russia, these trials will establish the optimal dosage required to kill the cancer without serious side effects to patients, currently the trials are continuing due to the success of the drug and the lack of side effects suffered. As soon as the adult clinical trial is completed the dosage for children will be established as 80% of that identified as optimal for adults.
The next phase of this project will be a clinical trial of CBL137 for children at leading children’s cancer centres in the United States and at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, conducted through the US-based Children’s Oncology Group (COG), the largest children’s cancer study group in the world. This is the first time that a COG trial of this sort would be made available to Australian children. The clinical trial in both countries will be run in the hospitals by Dr David Ziegler, a senior researcher at CCI and Head of Clinical trials at the Kids Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital (Randwick).
2. CBL137 combination with other targeted therapies
The next research project focuses on how CBL137 will work in combination with other targeted therapies with the aim that it can be optimised by to treat the cancer cells most effectively but with less damage to healthy cells. CCI has already identified an agent that looks promising in laboratory models combined with CBL137, now this needs to be tested further to understand how it is working, if there are bio-markers that indicate this combination should be effective in particular children and the procedures for monitoring the combination drug usage and effect.
Funding for this type of pre-clinical research is essential as often other funding sources focus on capital equipment and infrastructure rather than the senior scientists required to complete this ground-breaking work.
CBL137 has been researched by CCI through groups led by Professors Michelle Haber, Murray Norris and Glenn Marshall.
Articles and videos:
- Experimental drug giving hope to kids with cancer (SBS)
- A way to target the Achilles heel of neuroblastoma (CCIA)
- Neuroblastoma our battle (CCIA)
3. Characterisation of high-risk neuroblastoma models to support translational research
Under the leadership of Dr Jamie Fletcher and Dr Toby Trahair, we are supporting a new CCI project that hopes to develop highly detailed models representing the diversity of neuroblastoma.
The project will conduct molecular characterisation of patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models from Australian and New Zealand patients enrolled in an international, multicentre, randomised clinical trial. These models will play an invaluable role in current and future basic and translational research studies for this disease.
Clinicians and researchers could make use of this panel of PDX models to improve the accuracy with which they assess new therapeutic approaches prior to clinical trials. This would help prioritise approaches that are more likely to be effective in children.
4. Optimisation of high-risk neuroblastoma model development
Under the leadership of Dr Jamie Fletcher and Dr Toby Trahair, we are supporting an additional project aimed at decreasing the time required to generate PDX models and increasing the success rate of their development.
PDX models allow high quality lab-based testing of treatment approaches and can be an important part of testing for individual patients in the context of clinical trials. Quicker and more reliable PDX development increases the number of patients that can benefit from these approaches in a clinically relevant time frame.
Improvements to PDX model development can be rapidly adopted for high-risk neuroblastoma patients enrolled on the Zero Childhood Cancer clinical trial and can influence the model development approaches of other groups in the neuroblastoma field internationally, including those involved in personalised medicine trials.
5. Improved preclinical efficacy of CBL0137 by combination with HDAC inhibition
We are supporting a new project which aims to improve preclinical efficacy of CBL0137 by combination with a TGA/FDA-approved drug, panobinostat.
Preliminary work in high-risk neuroblastoma mouse models from the Children’s Cancer Institute has shown that CBL0137/panobinostat combination markedly prolonged disease-free survival compared with either of these two drugs alone, or compared with conventional chemotherapy drugs for neuroblastoma.
The team will further test if CBL0137/panobinostat can sensitise relapsed/resistant PDX models to standard chemotherapy backbones that are often ineffective for these tumours. This study also aims to understand how CBL0137 and panobinostat interact to specifically target tumour cells. Understanding of the underlying mechanisms will help reveal potential drug targets and develop safe and highly efficacious treatments for high-risk neuroblastoma.
Cancer Council NSW
We supported a project sponsored by Cancer Council NSW called “The critical role of the long intergenic noncoding RNA MALAT1 in Neuroblastoma” and it has been conducted by Dr Tao Liu of the Children’s Cancer Institute (UNSW).
A protein called N-Myc is often associated with neuroblastoma – in fact the majority of patients who die from the disease have high levels of this protein. So far, researchers haven’t been sure why there is this link between the N-Myc protein and cancer. This changed over the last year when Dr Liu discovered that N-Myc increases the activity of a gene known as MALAT1. This gene is linked to the formation of new blood vessels, so when this gene becomes more active, it helps neuroblastoma to spread. The research team have found that by blocking MALAT1, it is possible to reduce the development of new blood vessels and the spread of the neuroblastoma cells.
Thanks to this Cancer Council NSW research grant, the team has uncovered the possibility of using MALAT1 as a new and effective target for neuroblastoma treatment. This means there is an opportunity to create new drugs that directly inhibit the activity of MALAT1 to stop neuroblastomas from spreading. Going forward, Dr Liu and his team will work on developing stable MALAT1-blocking compounds. If these blockers are successful in the lab, this could lay the foundation to start clinical trials testing this treatment with neuroblastoma patients.
You can make a difference
Visit our how you can help us page for a range of ideas on how you can help children with all types of this complex cancer to lead long, healthy lives, free from the side effects of their treatment.