Reid Nicholls is only two years old but for most of his young life he has battled a rare brain cancer, backed by the unwavering love of his parents and the power of personalised medicine.
His mother Jade Reynolds said it’s a situation no family wants to endure, yet the expert care Reid received at Perth Children’s Hospital enabled him to beat the high-grade glioblastoma discovered in his brain when he was just six months old.
Reid’s story reflects the plight of the 1,000 children and young people who are diagnosed with cancer each year in Australia.
“Reid is such a fighter and one of the lucky ones,” said Jade.
“Genomic sequencing done as part of the Zero Childhood Cancer Program (ZERO) was so important for Reid because it gave us a more precise diagnosis. It has been a long and hard road, but we are so proud of our beautiful boy for defying the odds and reaching milestones we never thought possible.”
Led in partnership by Children’s Cancer Institute and Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick — together with all eight of Australia’s children’s hospitals — ZERO uses sophisticated genomic mapping to identify the molecular changes driving each child’s cancer, making recommendations for targeted treatments.
Minderoo Foundation supported ZERO with an initial $5 million grant in 2017 towards the first national clinical trial for patients with aggressive cancer and a less than 30 per cent chance of survival.
In 2020 Minderoo committed a further $12.2 million to support the program’s expansion for all cancers and access for all patients. Minderoo Foundation is also funding staff across all of Australia’s children’s hospitals to support the scale up of this world-first program.
By the end of 2023, all children and young people diagnosed with cancer each year in Australia will have the opportunity to access genomic sequencing as part of ZERO.
Every child participating in ZERO has a sample of their tumour sent to the Children’s Cancer Institute in Sydney, where comprehensive genetic testing and analysis is carried out. Clinicians and researchers from across Australia then meet virtually to discuss the diagnosis and provide treatment recommendations for that child.
Such personalised treatment recommendations offer children and young adults the best chance of surviving cancer while helping to identify less toxic targeted treatments, reducing their risk of long-term health problems.
Professor Nick Gottardo, Head of the Department of Clinical Haematology and Oncology at Perth Children’s Hospital, said ZERO’s individualised paediatric care will soon be available to all children facing cancer, regardless of risk type.
“The expansion of ZERO’s genetic testing platform will help to unlock answers for so many children like Reid,” Professor Gottardo said.
“Reid’s situation expedited the opening of an international clinical trial and although Reid was found to be unsuitable for it, molecular profiling done by ZERO identified the genetic mutation driving his particular cancer which can be specifically targeted in the future, should Reid’s cancer return.”
Jade said regular MRIs continue to confirm that Reid is cancer-free. As he grows and develops, Reid is tackling his complex medical needs with signature tenacity, supported by weekly physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech pathology sessions.
“We’re so thankful for the incredible medical care our boy has received since day one,” Jade said. “He is growing and thriving, and he continues to amaze us every single day.”
Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.