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Child cancer research

Cancer treatment continues to evolve and progress.

In particular, there has recently been recognition that cancers are much more varied than previously thought. As a result, patient management is becoming more personalised compared to the older ‘one size fits all’ approach. One promising way to personalise treatment is to develop blood markers that track each patients’ response to treatment. Using these markers, it becomes possible to quickly determine whether a particular treatment is working, eliminating the risk of futile treatment.

Research in the Cancer Genetics Laboratory at CTCR is focused on using DNA released into the bloodstream by a tumour (known as ctDNA) to track the progression of the tumour. CtDNA sampling requires only a simple blood test and can be conducted as often as required. This provides the opportunity for more intensive surveillance and faster clinical response times, at lower cost. By reducing the need for hospital visits, the technology may also remove barriers to rural communities and ethnic groups who may have poor access to hospital care.

Once the technology is fully developed, exposure to ineffective treatments will be able to be minimised and effective therapies delivered earlier. The Cancer Genetics Laboratory at the University of Otago currently has an established research programme that is applying ctDNA to adult cancers. This research is poised to have a significant impact on the effective treatment and management of cancer.

Help us make a difference by extending this research to include the treatment of childhood cancers.