In Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Garvan meets Lions Clubs International to discuss the way ahead for giving kids with cancer a better chance
Dr Joe Collins and Dr Jitsuhiro Yamada
09 September 2016
Leading Lions Club delegates from Australia and worldwide have visited Sydney to discuss next steps in the Lions Kids Cancer Genome Project – a new $4 million Australia-wide program that seeks to help transform outcomes for children with high-risk cancer through whole genome sequencing. The visit follows the announcement in May of outstanding financial support for the Project by the Lions Clubs International Foundation and the Australian Lions Children’s Cancer Research Foundation.
The Project is a collaborative partnership, bringing together Australia’s national personalised medicine program in childhood cancer – the Zero Childhood Cancer Program, led by Children’s Cancer Institute and the Kids Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick – and state-of-the-art capability in whole genome sequencing and analysis at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.
In the Project’s first three years, the genomes of 400 Australian children with high-risk cancer will be sequenced, and a database developed that contains the genome sequence of each child and the genetic changes found in their tumour. This database will be made available to clinicians to help guide personalised treatment of each child’s cancer and will also allow researchers to gain greater insight into the genetic causes of different childhood cancers.
Dr Jitsuhiro Yamada, Chairman of the Lions Club International Foundation and the immediate past International President, headed the Lions delegation to Garvan. A neurosurgeon with a keen interest in medical research, Dr Yamada played an important role in securing the $4 million Lions commitment to funding required for the three-year Project – one of the largest single philanthropic gifts for children’s cancer in Australia.
Dr Yamada was accompanied by leading Australian Lions including Barry Palmer AO (a past Lions Club International President) and Dr Joe Collins (the Founding Chairman of the Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation). Garvan’s Executive Director, Professor John Mattick AO FAA conceived the project a year ago in conjunction with Dr Collins, who will chair the Project’s leadership team. Operationally, the Project has since developed as a partnership led by Professor David Thomas and Dr Marie Dziadek (Garvan), Professor Glenn Marshall AM (Kids Cancer Centre) and Professor Michelle Haber AM (Children’s Cancer Institute).
The Lions delegation toured Garvan, The Kinghorn Cancer Centre, and Garvan’s Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics (KCCG), where genome sequencing and analysis for the Kids Cancer Genome Project will take place. Lions also visited the Children’s Cancer Institute and the Kids Cancer Centre – which together lead the Zero Childhood Cancer Program.
Speaking at a function to acknowledge Lions’ support, Dr Dziadek (Chief Scientific Officer, Garvan) said that the Project would not have progressed without the support of Dr Yamada, Mr Palmer and Lions Clubs International Foundation Trustees from all over the world.
“A year ago – almost to the day – John Mattick, Dr Yamada, Barry Palmer and Joe Collins met to discuss childhood cancer research. That day, the seed was sown for the Lions Kids Cancer Genome Project.
“Now that the Project is underway, it seems almost obvious as an approach – yet this large-scale whole genome sequencing of hundreds of children with cancer is something that hasn’t been possible to get off the ground elsewhere in the world.
“The support of Lions in Australia and internationally has been pivotal in making this unique project happen – and Australia now leads the world in providing genome sequencing technologies to improve outcomes for children with cancer.“
Dr Collins added, “The Project is testament to the immense power of philanthropy and collaboration to make a genuine difference – particularly when diverse sectors come together behind a cause, and when the timing is right.
“This Project is made possible by Lions’ philanthropy – but it couldn’t have happened without individual philanthropic giving from the Kinghorn Foundation and NSW Government-funded research infrastructure, which together have enabled KCCG to become one of the world’s leading genome sequencing centres. And it couldn’t have happened without the immense support of the Children’s Cancer Institute and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, who embraced the Project as an integral part of the Zero Childhood Cancer Program.”
“I want to share my gratitude to everyone by simply reminding us why we embarked on this important project: because every child deserves a chance at a healthy life.”
Prof Mattick summed up the sentiment of the Lions visit.
“It’s partnerships that matter – they make it possible to achieve things that would be otherwise unimaginable. We thank Lions for their vision, their commitment and their willingness to step outside their comfort zone to support this transformative project.
“What Lions are helping us do is to fast-forward the future – a bright future where genome sequencing for kids with cancer is commonplace, used by researchers and clinicians to save lives, and accepted as the standard of care.”