The MPCCC Precision Oncology Program welcomed two eminent speakers in August and September 2019 to present at Precision Oncology Seminars. These seminars brought together researchers and clinicians from across MPCCC partners to hear how precision oncology techniques can enable effective individualised treatments for rare and aggressive cancers.

Dr Richard Tothill, Head of the Rare Disease Oncogenomics (‘RADIO’) laboratory within the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Cancer Research, presented ‘Genome profiling of cancers of unknown primary’ on Friday 30 August at Frankston Hospital. One week later, Associate Professor David Ziegler presented ‘From poison to precision: the development of novel therapies for high-risk childhood cancers’ at Monash Children’s Hospital.  A/Prof Ziegler is the Chair of Clinical Trials for the Zero Childhood Cancer personalised medicine program, led by the Children’s Cancer Institute at Sydney Children’s Hospital.

Dr Tothill spoke about efforts to develop better diagnostic and prognostic tests by comprehensive tumour genome profiling, including by Whole Genome Sequencing, Whole Exon Sequencing, large ‘pan cancer’ panels and gene expression profiling. His laboratory is working to develop cell line cultures and patient-derived organoids from rare cancers to establish working tumour models. Since metastatic cancers retain the gene expression profile of the tissue of origin, this techniques could enable the identification of precise cancer treatments in individual patients, and could also lead to developing predictive markers of therapeutic response.

A/Prof Ziegler began his presentation with an encouraging statistic: 75% of children in Australia now survive cancer. Over the past 50 years, cure rates have continued to improve thanks to judicious use of cytotoxic agents, but the therapeutic ceiling has been reached utilising these conventional chemotherapies and radiotherapy. The Zero Childhood Cancer Precision Medicine Program aims to help the remaining 25% of children with the most aggressive paediatric cancers. The program is a national platform that uses translational research for the development and clinical testing of novel therapies.

Precision Oncology Seminars are central to engaging and educating the oncology workforce across MPCCC. Seminars will continue in 2020 and will be advertised in the monthly MPCCC Research and Clinical E-news. Sign up to our E-news below, and visit the MPCCC Precision Oncology Program page to find out more about the program’s activities.