Tissue Bank having a big impact thanks to fundraisers

Article from 2019/2020 Auxiliaries Annual Report

When CIKA was formed in 1980, most children who were diagnosed with cancer did not survive. Fast forward 40 years and the statistics are far more promising – most will survive. However, for the families who are touched by cancer, they want to see children not just survive, but thrive.

“CIKA’s main, ambitious goal is to eliminate cancer altogether, but we also want to ensure those kids who get cancer not only survive but improve their outcomes long term,” said CIKA Vice-President, Ellen Webb. “Many children are now surviving their initial cancer – Fiona Love was the first CIKA child to survive her cancer, but as an adult she developed a secondary cancer that she sadly passed away from when she was 42. Researchers are now finding that there are ongoing issues and higher risk factors for secondary cancers for children who have had cancer during childhood.”

From day one, CIKA members have been steadfast in their support of paediatric cancer research, which they believe is the best way of ensuring those kids who are diagnosed with cancer have the best outcomes possible. It would not be an overstatement to say that the funding provided by CIKA has helped improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of children with cancer, right across the world.

The millions of dollars that has been raised has supported many research projects across the Melbourne Children’s Campus and helped fund research positions, as well as provided seed and ongoing funding for the Children’s Cancer Centre Tissue Bank.

The Tissue Bank is based at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and collects tissue samples from cancer patients at the RCH to conduct research, aiming to discover how cancer develops and how a patient’s genes affect their response to cancer treatment. Samples are collected at different stages of standard clinical care. The samples are then used for ethically approved research projects, usually directly related to the child’s original diagnosis. Samples from the Tissue Bank have been sent all across the world and are currently being used in 23 different research projects.

“We wouldn’t have a Tissue Bank if it wasn’t for CIKA, so the funding they provide is extremely important. We don’t receive any government funding at all, we rely completely on philanthropy,” said Tissue Bank Coordinator, Dr Louise Ludlow.

“Over the past seven years I have been granted the unique opportunity of interacting with the CIKA team. During this time, I have experienced their dedication, sheer hard work and perseverance towards this incredible cause. Their relentless energy and determination is second to none.”

In addition, since 2014 CIKA has funded the Solid Tumour Clinical Trials Research Coordinator position, which aims to increase the number of children with solid tumours enrolled on clinical trials from under 10 per cent, to greater than 70 per cent. The ability to take part in national and international clinical trials allows patients access to groundbreaking treatment initiatives, novel therapeutic drug trials and to contribute to the overall research that can have potentially life-saving effects for generations to come.

“This is a really important position and something we are really happy to be providing funding for; it means every child who is diagnosed with a solid tumour who comes into the hospital can be involved in the clinical trial if registered,” said Ellen.

CIKA members pride themselves on often providing the seed funding for innovative projects and positions, that may have not got off the ground or been possible otherwise.

“Collectively we really try to fund cutting edge research projects that wouldn’t happen without our support,” said Ellen.

“One that sticks in my mind is research in the early 2000’s when we funded a researcher whose project used the patient’s own immune system to attack the cancer, which was an extremely novel idea at the time, and has now changed a lot about how cancer is treated. To be able to contribute to research like this, it’s really touching, it’s the whole reason why CIKA exists.”

For researcher Dr Louise Ludlow, CIKA has not only provided the essential funds for an internationally renowned research enabling platform, CIKA’s members’ dedication to raising money for research has driven her in her research career.

“Meeting and getting to know CIKA members has truly been a highlight of my role as Tissue Bank Coordinator. On a personal level these interactions have enriched my life providing a constant supply of inspiration and motivation,” said Louise. “Their support has enabled huge advances in the treatment of childhood cancer both within Australia and internationally. Their tremendous contribution deserves the highest level of recognition and respect – it’s absolutely incredible.”