CZECH oncology professor Jaroslav Sterba says a lack of pharmaceutical investment in tackling childhood cancer requires scientists to be "not just thinking outside the box, but creating a new box".
Professor Sterba paediatric oncologists can be the victims of their own success because while many cancers in children can be quite aggressive, child cancer patients can be some of the most responsive to treatment. But he said this was not good enough for the parents and loved ones of children for whom treatment did not work or was not suitable.
In his week-long visit to Ballarat, Professor Sterba encourages all medical professionals and researchers to keep thinking bigger.
If you do want something done, do things differently.
"If you do want something done, do things differently," Professor Sterba said. "This could be working with immune treatments or playing with new tricks on old drugs."
Professor Sterba is the head of oncology and vice dean at University of Masaryk in Brno. He is guest of Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute on the John Turner visiting professorship to strengthen collaboration.
An internationally renowned expert on metronomics, Professor Sterba said the low-dose prolonged use of chemotherapy could be highly compatible with immunotherapy, a focus at FECRI. He said collaboration was key to understanding more how such treatments work together.
Professor Sterba likened his precision, personalised paediatric treatment to fingerprints - everyone has an individual fingerprint and similarly with cancers, there was no one-size-fits-all effective treatment for children.
He said with good data treatment could be tailored to better suit each child because too often children and teenagers got left behind.
Passionate about helping young people, Professor Sterba said the story behind FECRI added a stronger purpose to his visit. Fiona Elsey died age 14 with Ewing's sarcoma in 1991. Her dying wish to her oncologist, now FECRI director, George Kannourakis was for cancer research in her hometown.
Professor Sterba will work with FECRI scientists and deliver lectures to the city's medical professionals.
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