New cancer trial could treat more kids with fewer side effects

Three children are diagnosed with cancer each week in New Zealand.

Survival rates are over 80 percent, but a new trial aims to help those most difficult to treat.

Jonty Clare is a typical three-and-a-half year old. To see him, you wouldn't know what he's been through - but at 10 weeks old he was diagnosed with a cancer so rare he was given just weeks to live. 

His mother Kerri says the family was initially given very few treatment options.

"I think that anything which might actually pinpoint additional targeted therapies for children can give families like us a ray of hope."

Jonty is now in complete remission, but during treatment his parents turned to genetic testing in the search for answers.

Experts say genetic testing for those with difficult-to-treat and relapsed forms of cancer would help personalise medication.

A five-year Auckland University trial, funded by Cure Kids and the Child Cancer Foundation, was launched on Tuesday.

"What we're hoping to do is test those tumours and try and find mutations that may give us an option of a new drug that might be able to help that person's cancer respond," says Dr Andy Wood.

This would hopefully make treatments more effective with fewer side effects, according to Dr Scott Macfarlane from the Child Cancer Network.

"This offers us the next step for getting closer to our ultimate goal, which is 100 percent of children cured without any long term effects."

Jonty has now started pre-school. His mother says watching him do everything other kids can is "amazing".

"We feel like the luckiest family in the world."

She hopes the new trial can give other families a better chance.