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What Is Personalised Medicine?

Personalised medicine – tailoring treatment to suit each individual patient, rather than using the traditional ‘one size fits all’ approach – stands to revolutionise the way childhood cancer is treated.

One size doesn’t fit all.

Two children who have the ‘same’ kind of cancer and who show the same symptoms may respond very differently to the same treatment. That is because every child has their own unique genetic make-up, and every cancer has its own genomic and biological signature. This is why we need to tailor treatment (or ‘personalise medicine’) to each individual child.

To be able to tailor treatment in this way, detailed information about each individual’s disease needs to be gathered. For Zero Childhood Cancer, scientists at Children’s Cancer Institute are analysing cancer cells taken from each child taking part in the program, to identify the precise molecular characteristics and genetic changes that are allowing the cancer to thrive. We then screen the cancer cells against hundreds of drugs to find which drugs have the greatest likelihood of being effective against that child’s cancer, and grow the cells in our laboratory models of disease to test if these drugs are indeed effective. All the information we gather is made available to a specialised team of clinicians and scientists, who use it to develop and deliver the most effective treatment plan for that individual child. Using personalised medicine, the goal of Zero Childhood Cancer is to treat each child’s cancer in the most targeted way possible and aim for a cure for every child.


“As the program progresses and as we gather more information, we hope to get better and better at identifying the most effective treatment for each child’s cancer. By 2020, we aim to be in a position to offer personalised medicine to every Australian child diagnosed with high-risk or relapsed cancer.”   

Professor Michelle Haber AM