The ACACIA study: How effective are the current COVID-19 vaccines when it comes to triggering an immune response in kids with cancer?
Dr Dan Yeoh, an Infectious Diseases Physician at Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH), is leading a team of oncology and immunology researchers to study how effective current COVID-19 vaccines are when it comes to triggering an immune response in kids with cancer.
As the lead researcher on the ACACIA Study, Dr Yeoh is hoping to help inform international vaccine policy by assessing COVID-19 antibody response in children with cancer after being immunised.
“The ACACIA Study is really trying to look at the COVID vaccine in children who are undergoing chemotherapy, with the aim of understanding how well the COVID vaccine protects them from COVID,” Dr Yeoh said.
“We’re studying the antibody response in kids under the age of 18 who are being treated for cancer or are undergoing a bone marrow transplant at PCH. Many of these children have conditions like leukemia, or brain tumours, or other severe cancers.”
Tom, 10, was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2020. At that time his parents, Hannah and Simon, were concerned about the impacts of COVID on Tom, whether he should have the COVID vaccination, and even whether it was safe for him to continue to attend school during the pandemic.
“For us, it was all about how do we try to keep him as safe as possible.” – Hannah, Tom’s mum.
Simon, Tom’s dad, said: “We first found out about the ACACIA study through the doctors at PCH. So, one of the times we were in the clinic, they talked us through it and asked if we were prepared to be part of that review and what was needed in terms of any samples. We’ve always been very open to helping as much as we possibly can.”
Dr Yeoh added: “Our hope is that the ACACIA study will help us to better understand how suitable the current COVID-19 vaccine schedule is for those young people. And this really stems from early data suggesting that children undergoing chemotherapy were more vulnerable to getting sick with COVID compared with their healthy counterparts.”
The ACACIA study is run by staff at Perth Children’s Hospital, thanks to funding from Ivan and Pam Bristow, and with the support of the WA Department of Health, Stan Perron Foundation and PCHF, in collaboration with Pathwest, Telethon Kids’ Institute and the University of Western Australia.
Stay tuned for updates! The results from the ACACIA Study are expected to be available later this year.