Research into new cancer treatments to give children hope - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views

Photos: Supplied.


Local charity Richie’s Rainbow is not taking “no” for an answer!

Dr Wayne Nicholls, one of Queensland’s top paediatric oncologists says the beautiful children he was unable to save have motivated him to rally for more research and treatment options for childhood cancer, in partnership with Richie’s Rainbow Foundation.

Director of the Oncology Services Group at the Queensland Children’s Hospital Dr Wayne Nicholls said he had “lots of nice ghosts” in the little Queenslanders he couldn’t cure.

It’s because of them that he is advocating for more to be done for children with high-risk diseases, looking at new novel methods of treatment based on the biological and genetic aspects of tumours and the patients.

“I can tell stories all day long of kids who had terrible cancers but despite that were amazing people and they’re really special to me,” Dr Nicholls said.

“I‘d like to have them with us rather than not with us.

“So my whole drive is to make a world where we can keep those kids, where we can cure those kids.”

One of those patients is bayside resident Richie Walsh who died at age 9 in September last year from Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of sarcoma.

Dr Nicholls will join Richie’s parents Lisa and Karl Walsh to discuss shortfalls in treatment options with Queensland Health.

Dr Nicholls said while significant advances had been made in treating Leukaemia, the most common type of childhood cancer, little progress had been made with the cure rates of rarer cancers such as sarcoma and high-grade brain tumours outside of Medulloblastoma.

He is hopeful that big advances can be made with treatments, including targeted therapies, for more rare childhood cancers.

But it will take lots of resources and support from governments.

Dr Nicholls said research into cancers with big numbers- such as breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma- attracted resources from many pharmaceutical companies because breakthroughs in those areas meant greater profits.

“But children‘s cancer, because it’s rare, most drug companies don’t have much interest in treating those cancers because they’re never going to make much money from it,” Dr Nicholls said.

“And so there’s a sort of systemic disadvantage for children with cancer in terms of novel therapies.”

Research endeavours including immunotherapy are underway in Queensland with announcements in the field expected later this year.

Richie’s parents hope adequate funding for research will eventually prevent other families from enduring the heartache they did in losing their funny and strong “little dude”.

“We’ve just gone through 18 months of pure torture, our boy went through horrendous and toxic chemo and radiation and we lost him anyway,” Ms Walsh said.

“We need kinder and effective treatments that will cure kids and give them a better outcome.

“Because even the children who survive, they end up with lifelong health problems including digestive issues, growth, infertility.”

Ms Walsh said her family was channelling the grief into making changes.

They’ve created the Richie’s Rainbow Foundation to provide educational resources and support to families and health professionals who are faced with a cancer diagnosis.

They are also on a mission to raise awareness of childhood cancer and raise much-needed funds for research into childhood sarcomas.

Representatives from Queensland Health and the Queensland Children’s Hospital have met with the Walsh family.

“We are always willing to meet with patients, families, and any other healthcare system stakeholder to discuss ways we can improve the health and wellbeing of Queenslanders,” a Queensland Health spokesman said.

You may be interested in