About the Precision Paediatric Cancer Project (PPCP)
The Precision Paediatric Cancer Project: A ground-breaking clinical trial for childhood cancer treatment in New Zealand
One of Child Cancer Foundation's core pillars of support is contributing to the ongoing improvement of cancer treatment available to Kiwi children. To do this, we work alongside like-minded organisations to ensure that our resources are having the biggest impact for children with cancer and their whānau.
With that in mind, we are thrilled to announce the extended funding of the Precision Paediatric Cancer Project (PPCP), a ground-breaking study which provides a more hopeful outlook for Kiwi kids diagnosed with rare and hard-to-treat forms of cancer.
The project, led by Paediatric Haematologist/Oncologist, Dr Andy Wood, began in 2018 and is the first of its kind in New Zealand. Working in partnership with Cure Kids and the Lindsay Foundation, we are proud to be pledging a further $750,000 in the project this year, after our initial investment of $625,000 in 2018. This second round of co-funding will expand the reach of the project over the next four years.
To learn about the PPCP, listen to Cure Kids’ interview with Dr Andy Wood by clicking the link below.
What is a clinical trial?
A clinical trial is a method of research that studies a test or treatment given to people. Clinical trials study how safe and helpful tests and treatments are.
What is the aim of the PPCP?
The main goal of the project is to use a technology called next-generation sequencing (NGS) to identify the genetic mutations causing rare cancers in children.
In the best case scenario, NGS can help doctors find targeted therapies that are more effective and gentler than traditional chemotherapy. NGS can also sometimes help make or refine a diagnosis and provide additional information about prognosis or treatment options. Using NGS to help diagnosis and treatment can be more precise in some cases, and is sometimes called ‘precision medicine’.
Most NGS tests can sequence around two million letters of DNA, which is still an excellent approach and adequate for most situations. The additional funding to the PPCP will allow Dr Wood and his team to offer a more comprehensive type of NGS for selected patients. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) sequences the entire six billion DNA letters in the genome. WGS is more difficult to perform and interpret, but it provides a huge amount of information to families and health professionals.
How many New Zealand children will be enrolled in the trial?
Approximately 20-25 eligible children with cancer will be enrolled in the trial each year for four years, (approximately 100 children in total).
Why is the PPCP important?
Currently in New Zealand, childhood cancer treatment often takes a shotgun approach – injuring healthy cells while attempting to kill off cancerous cells. Life-long side effects can result, including infertility, heart problems and recurring cancer. Advances in gene sequencing (such as NGS) offer the opportunity for more precise treatment, as well as improved outcomes and quality of life for New Zealand children who have cancer.
Who is Dr Andy Wood?
Dr Wood is a New Zealand-trained paediatric oncologist who worked at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one of the world’s leading child cancer hospitals, prior to returning to New Zealand to work on this research. He will be supported by a team of health professionals in Auckland and Canterbury throughout the PPCP clinical trial.
Where will the PPCP clinical trial be based?
Has similar research been done before?
In the USA, Europe, and Australia there are already large-scale research projects delivering childhood cancer NGS results to patients and families. New Zealand does not currently offer the NGS test in any capacity, and families of child cancer patients wishing to undergo gene sequencing have to look overseas and fund it themselves. The PPCP will provide eligible New Zealand child cancer patients with free access to NGS for the first time.
Which children will be able to participate in the PPCP?
The PPCP trial participants will be determined using strict eligibility criteria. The focus of the PPCP is children with difficult-to-treat or relapsed cancers. Access to the trial will only be possible through the child’s paediatric oncologist.
How do I find out if my child is eligible for the PPCP?
Childhood cancer patients eligible for this trial must be managed by the Starship Blood and Cancer Centre, or the Children’s Haematology Oncology Centre in Christchurch, and will have to meet strict eligibility criteria. In all cases, please speak to your treating oncologist first and they will be able to access additional information specific to your child’s eligibility.
What is involved?
Childhood cancer patients eligible for this programme will have a sample of cancerous tissue taken for genome sequencing. Once the cells are sequenced, the results will be analysed with the aim of identifying genetic mutations in which previous research has shown a specific treatment approach to be effective. These results will be considered by a team of oncologists, surgeons and other experts who will make treatment recommendations to the family and their lead physician.
How much will the PPCP cost parents?
There will be no charge for eligible New Zealand children to be part of the PPCP trial. The funding from Child Cancer Foundation, Cure Kids and the Lindsay Foundation will cover the full cost of the trial.