Clinical trials are an integral part of the care provided by KCA’s child cancer care centres. About 60% of all children treated in our centres are enrolled on clinical trials, which are designed to evaluate new therapies, diagnostic tools and other potential advances in child cancer treatment. Some children are involved in more than one trial.
Combining clinical care with research in this way has been the key to the huge improvements in cure rates seen over past decades, and will continue to be so in the future. The high priority placed on research by our clinical care centres is illustrated by the millions of dollars of competitive research funding they attract, and the high number of research papers they have published in major international journals.
Clinical trials of a new medical treatment are performed in phases. Phase I and Phase II trials are referred to as ‘early phase’ trials. The purpose of Phase I trials is to test new treatments in small groups of patients, focusing on safety and side effects, while Phase II trials focus on how well these treatments work (their efficacy). Phase III trials involve larger groups of patients and are designed to confirm how well new treatments works, especially when compared to current treatments, and to further study side effects.
An example of a clinical trial recently conducted in KCA treatment centres, with great success, is the Phase 3 clinical trial for children newly diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), led by The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children’s Hospital. The trial, which featured a new, highly sensitive diagnostic test developed by Children’s Cancer Institute Australia (one of our member research institutes), saw a doubling of cure rates for those ALL patients at the highest risk of relapse. This is an excellent example of the kind of results made possible when researchers and clinicians collaborate.