The Zero Childhood Cancer Precision Medicine Program (ZERO) is a world-leading Australian program that aims to improve survival rates, reduce side effects, and advance our understanding of childhood cancer for the benefit of all.
ZERO uses sophisticated genomic testing to look for any genetic changes that could be driving the growth of each child’s cancer and make recommendations for treatment based on matching these genomic results with targeted treatments.
A truly collaborative research and clinical effort, ZERO is led by Children’s Cancer Institute and the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick; but most importantly involves all nine of Australia’s children’s hospitals that handle cancer care as well as the peak professional body, Australian and New Zealand Children’s Haematology/Oncology Group (ANZCHOG).
The shattering moment when a child is diagnosed with cancer has a devastating impact on families and communities.
Of the more than 1000 children and young people diagnosed each year in Australia, sadly around 150 will die and almost 600 will suffer long-term side effects from their treatment.
Minderoo Foundation partnered with the Australian government in 2018 to provide $5 million in funding for ZERO. Since then, ZERO has:
With very strong results achieved, in 2020 we supported the program’s expansion with a further grant of $12.2 million.
Together, Minderoo Foundation and the Australian government have committed $67 million to ZERO. Through the phased expansion of ZERO, by the end of 2023 every child in Australia who is diagnosed with cancer will have access to a personalised medicine approach through ZERO.
Importantly, those enrolled on the expanded ZERO program will be able to join at the time of their diagnosis. This means the results from their genomic analysis can inform their care right from the beginning, potentially leading to a more specific diagnosis, prognosis and risk stratification — and, in some cases, a refined treatment approach.
ZERO gives children the greatest chance of surviving their disease and, importantly, helps to identify more targeted, less toxic treatments to reduce the risk of long-term side effects and health problems.
The success of ZERO relies on a strong collaborative network of all nine children’s hospitals in Australia who care for cancer patients, as well as 22 national and international research partners.
The Australian and New Zealand Children’s Haematology/Oncology Group (ANZCHOG) supports ZERO as sponsor of the research trial and by conducting other clinical trials which offer new treatment options to children and young adults with cancer.
This rare cancers clinical trial is contributing genomic and clinical data to Minderoo Foundation’s Federated Cancer Data network, which connects harmonised and de-identified cancer patient data, creating a platform to promote global collaborative research.
The genomic data generated from the first 250 children enrolled on the Zero Childhood Cancer program was examined.
The data has shown that:
Reported in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine in October 2020, the remarkable initial results from ZERO demonstrate the potential for systematic identification of the genetic basis for a child’s cancer to transform treatment and improve clinical benefits through personalised medicine.
Reid Nicholls was just six months old when he was diagnosed with a high-grade glioblastoma.
The expert care Reid received at Perth Children’s Hospital enabled him to beat the tumour discovered in his brain.