Associate Professor David Croucher from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research has been awarded a Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Childhood Cancer Research Grant to investigate better treatments for neuroblastoma, one of the most common cancers affecting infants.
The $614,000 grant will be used to design personalised treatment strategies that prevent drug resistance in neuroblastomas, to inform clinical trials in patients.
“The survival rate for high-risk neuroblastoma remains at less than 50%, even with several available treatment options, including high-dose, multi-agent chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy,” says Associate Professor Croucher, who heads the Network Biology Lab at Garvan.
“Our project aims to reveal which treatment will be most effective for which tumour and identify combination therapies that are tailored to these vulnerable patients.”
Improving childhood cancer treatment strategies
Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops from immature nerve cells and most commonly affects children aged five years or younger. Despite comprising less than 10% of all cancer cases in children, neuroblastoma results in 15% of child cancer-related deaths.
In previous experiments, Associate Professor Croucher and his team discovered that histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors could be used to make neuroblastoma cells more sensitive to treatment. These HDAC inhibitors regulate specific DNA modifications that make the cancer more drug resistant, ‘priming’ tumours to respond better to chemotherapy.
In their project, the researchers will use neuroblastoma biopsy samples from patients and experimental models to screen which HDAC inhibitors, administered at which stage of the treatment cycle, can best sensitise neuroblastomas to chemotherapy.
Over the course of the project, the Garvan team will collaborate closely with researchers at the National University of Ireland Dublin, the German Cancer Research Center, Ghent University, Children’s Cancer Institute and UNSW Sydney.
“This work will build on nine years of preclinical studies that suggest better treatments for this childhood cancer are within reach. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of this project translating to clinical trials and improved outcomes for patients at all stages of disease,” says Associate Professor Croucher.
Associate Professor Croucher is a Conjoint Associate Professor at St Vincent's Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health, UNSW Sydney.