Children with cancer can enjoy childhood again sooner

11 January 2021

Less than 24 hours after Claire Bermingham was told her precious son had cancer, she watched on as three-year-old Archer began his chemotherapy with a drug called vincristine. 

An important treatment for many childhood cancers, vincristine can be harsh on the patient’s body. Major side effects include vincristine-induced neuropathy, which can greatly reduce quality of life, and can even force treatment to cease altogether. 

Now four-years-old, Archer has successfully completed treatment, but he still experiences a number of side effects that doctors estimate could last seven years post-treatment. 

“He can’t take stairs, hold a pen, write his name, use scissors or do lots of other things children his age can do,” said Bermingham. 

“People think once treatment is over and the cancer is in remission, that it’s all over – that’s not the reality.” 

With the support of kind donations from people like you – and in partnership with The Kids’ Cancer Project – Professor Irina Vetter and her team at UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) are uncovering an alternative for young patients, like Archer. 

The researchers have identified the type of inflammation vincristine causes, and are testing existing drugs to assess if they reduce these side effects. By using drugs that are already on the market, the treatment can make its way to those who need it much sooner. 

“I don’t want to say we’ve found a cure [for vincristine-induced neuropathy], but it’s looking very good, so we’re excited about that," said Professor Vetter. 

Thank you for helping us work towards reducing pain for children who undergo cancer treatments.