PACIFIC Study Perth Children's Hospital Foundation

Thriving, not just surviving – improving outcomes for children with cancer

Thriving, not just surviving – improving outcomes for children with cancer

Survival rates for children living with leukaemia have improved drastically in the past 40 years, due to improvements in treatment. However, the intensive chemotherapy regimens required to treat leukaemia weakens children’s immune system, leaving up to 25% of them at huge risk of serious invasive fungal infections.

The unresolved question of how best to prevent these fungal infections in children with leukaemia is a well-recognised challenge for doctors in Australia and internationally. However, until now, funding and the opportunity to do meaningful research in this area has been lacking.

Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation is proud to support the PACIFIC Trial, a national collaboration with Perth researchers leading the charge to find the best way to treat this common problem, reduce suffering for children and their families and change global best practice.

The bedrock of paediatric oncology is clinical trials where we’ve made enormous progress in the survival rates of children with cancer, to the point where around 80 to 85% of children will survive. However, it comes at a cost as these types of trials are so intensive and aggressive that it causes a huge amount of side effects.

Professor Nick Gottardo
Professor Nick Gottardo – Stan Perron Head of Paediatric Oncology and Haematology at Perth Children's Hospital.
(L) Dr Daniel Yeoh - Paediatric infectious disease physician, (R) Professor Nick Gottardo – Stan Perron Head of Paediatric Oncology and Haematology.

“I’ve taken care of children with fungal infections when I was working on the oncology ward. These infections can be really devastating for children and, in the worst case, it can lead to death.”

Seeing that first hand and thinking that we’ve got these drugs that could potentially prevent these infections, yet, we don’t really know how to use them best, that’s really frustrating as a clinician.

To enable research like the PACIFIC Trial, costs money and so without funding from Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation they would be impossible to conduct.

We hope that this study will be able to determine the best approach to preventing fungal infections in children by looking at the data we are collecting from across the country, updating our national guidelines and then informing international guidelines as to a better way of doing things moving forward – Dr Daniel Yeoh – Paediatric infectious disease physician, PCH.

“We first thought something was wrong when he got very pale skin, bruises on both his legs and he was tired all the time. He wouldn’t let me touch his legs and arms and he was in a lot of pain. Eventually we were told that he had leukaemia.”

Simar & Sukhvinder Singh.

The infection meant that his main treatment stopped for 10 months and he had to have a lung biopsy, a brain biopsy and then an operation. Finally, once that was done, they did his main treatment. The fungal infection in his brain was awful because he forgot everything. Even my mum, he was asking who she was and he forgot his alphabet and numbers.

Research like the PACIFIC Trial is so important. We don’t yet know how he got this fungal infection in his brain, kidney, liver, lungs, legs, everywhere and that’s a scary thing for us. Always, we’re thinking about this thing and hoping that it never comes again. So many kids in the hospital have fungal infections so they have to find how to stop it. If they can save children from this it will be so wonderful – Sukhvinder,  Simar’s mother.

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