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The Children’s Hospital Foundation has committed $7.5 million to an Australian-first research centre, that is aiming to bring better treatment options to kids facing cancer.

Launched today at Customs House in Brisbane, The Ian Frazer Centre for Children’s Immunotherapy Research is the first dedicated children’s immunotherapy research centre in Australia, led by The University of Queensland in collaboration with Children’s Health Queensland and QIMR Berghofer.

The Centre has been established thanks to funding from Children’s Hospital Foundation, to bring better outcomes, and treatments, and improve not only the survival but also the quality of life for Australian kids with cancer.

Under the expert guidance of Professor Ian Frazer – a pioneering cancer researcher and immunotherapy expert credited with co-inventing the world’s only cancer prevention vaccine Gardasil – the Centre is looking to translate current successful adult treatments into paediatric care.

Cancer kills more children than any other disease in Australia, and Professor Ian Frazer said immunotherapy had enormous potential not only to children’s survival but also to improve their ongoing quality of life.

“To date, children have not benefitted from advances in cancer immunotherapy to the same extent as adults,” Professor Frazer said.

“This Centre will conduct desperately needed research to invent new immunotherapies, enhance current treatments’ efficacy and reduce unwanted long-term consequences of childhood cancer treatment

“This Centre will ensure current clinical research is translated into a new era of children’s cancer treatments.”

Every week, about three children and adolescents in Australia will die from cancer – a fact that Michael Horwood and Michelle Robson Young know all too well, after their daughter Charlotte died in 2019, just four months before her 14th birthday.

Charlotte was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma when she was just eight years old, and bravely endured five and a half years of treatment. Charlotte sadly died the night before she was meant to commence a promising immunotherapy trial.

“Charlotte didn’t have the chance to benefit from the progressive treatment that has saved so many adult lives, and it’s because of this that the Ian Frazer Centre is so important,” Michael said.

“Hopefully, research conducted under this Centre will see children, just like Charlotte, recover and live long, healthy, and happy lives. That will be her legacy.”

Michael now sits on the advisory committee for the Ian Frazer Centre for Immunotherapy Research, in the hope of preventing other children from experiencing what Charlotte endured.

Children’s Hospital Foundation CEO, Lyndsey Rice, said the initial $7.5 million investment was only possible thanks to philanthropic donations.

“These funds will see research findings turned into better bedside care, gentler treatments for serious childhood illnesses, and have the potential to save young lives right across the world,” Ms Rice said.

“This research is desperately needed, and without the funding to make it possible, survival rates won’t improve, and children will continue to die from cancer. We can’t wait any longer – the time is now. We owe it to all Australian kids and their families.

“We are incredibly grateful to Ian Frazer for steering the research that will be conducted, and we know that under his expert guidance, true change can be made.”

The Ian Frazer Centre for Children’s Immunotherapy Research has also recently appointed internationally renowned immunologist, Professor Di Yu of The University of Queensland, as its inaugural director.

Click here to donate to kids’ cancer immunotherapy research,

Pictured above L-R are Centre Director Professor Di Yu, Dr Norman Swan, Professor Ian Frazer AC, Asha cancer patient, Dr Wayne Nicholls, and Children’s Hospital Foundation CEO Lyndsey Rice.