Cancer researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research are setting a course for a deeper understanding of why some children have a high cancer risk. Their project, dubbed ‘Genome Power 2.0’, has been kickstarted by a generous cross-sector gift – which has been jointly contributed by Lions, by NSW Health and by Garvan itself.
The gift will support the development of a ‘genome database’: a collection of genome sequences from children and young people with cancer. Using the database and sophisticated analytical tools, researchers will be able to pinpoint key genes (and other DNA sequences) that are altered in children who go on to develop cancer. In turn, they will gain insights into new prevention and treatment approaches for childhood cancer.
The new funding, which totals over $200,000, began as a $53,000 commitment from the NSW Parliamentary Lions Club. Those funds were almost doubled by a $50,000 gift from NSW Health, with the Garvan Institute matching the total contribution dollar-for-dollar.
“This is a very special gift – and one that really epitomises what Genome Power is all about,” says Dr Joe Collins, Chairman, Lions Kids Cancer Genome Project and Founding Chairman of the Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation.
“One thing that has really defined Genome Power since the start has been the great rallying of different groups for a common cause. Whether it’s Lions, government or philanthropists, Genome Power has struck a nerve across the community – and this generous gift is a wonderful example of that.”
The project marks a new phase for Genome Power (the Lions Kids Cancer Genome Project), which was launched in 2016 by Garvan, in partnership with the Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation and the Lions Clubs International Foundation.
Genome Power is already active in the fight against childhood cancer. Through Genome Power, Garvan and Lions are two of the partners in the Zero Childhood Cancer national child cancer personalised medicine program, which is led by Children’s Cancer Institute and the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick. More than 400 children across Australia with high-risk or relapsed cancer will be enrolled in Zero Childhood Cancer over the next three years, and each child’s unique cancer will be characterised through detailed testing – including whole genome sequencing carried out through Genome Power – so as to provide personalised treatment to every child on the Program where possible.
“With this new and generous gift from NSW Parliamentary Lions and NSW Health, we’ll be able to learn even more from the genome sequences of young people with cancer,” says Professor David Thomas (Head, Cancer Division, Garvan; Head, The Kinghorn Cancer Centre) who co-leads Genome Power.
“We know that there is a vast amount of information hidden in the DNA sequences of these young people, and when we compare large numbers of genomes, we hope to understand better why some kids go on to develop cancer,” Professor Thomas adds.
“That information is vital. By identifying kids at increased cancer risk, we can monitor them and keep them safe from disease, and it will point us to new ways to treat cancer through personalised medicine.”
“Families across NSW are faced with cancer every day and for many of us, it is unimaginable to know how parents watch their children battle this disease,” says Stephen Bromhead (NSW MP for Myall Lakes and President of the NSW Parliamentary Lions Club).
“As MPs we are driven by wanting to improve the lives of people in our community and through this funding we have potentially assisted in providing a brighter, cancer-free future for thousands of children,” Mr Bromhead said.
For more information about Genome Power, including how you can help raise funds visit: www.genomepower.org.au