The ability to offer clinical trial participation is an expectation of a first world children’s cancer service. All children and younger adolescents in New Zealand with cancer are treated either at Starship or Christchurch Hospital. Starship Blood and Cancer Centre (SBCC) at Starship Hospital is the largest of the two. New Zealand children’s cancer centres have an excellent track record for quality in research conduct and constantly strive to grow in both quality and quantity of the research undertaken and offered. Both centres work closely together on clinical trial access and opportunity to enable NZ children with cancer to have access to the widest range of good quality research possible.

Starship Blood and Cancer Centre offers trial options across most cancer disease groups and phases of disease. We also run many types of trial – diagnosis, treatment, supportive care and psychosocial assessment. Generally in children’s cancer, clinical trial participation is via international collaborative groups – in which scientists and medical people group together, often across international boundaries to develop and run clinical trials. We also run a small number of industry-sponsored trials at Starship Blood and Cancer Centre, and support and undertake ‘home grown’ research projects.

Most of our clinical trials are phase II or III therapy trials, often randomised trials of the current best-known therapy against either a new approach/medicine, or an approach used elsewhere that may be as good or better. Some trials are focused on maintaining our excellent survival outcomes whilst reducing the late effects of therapy that many children treated for cancer experience. Some include new therapies, such as new targeted or immunotherapy agents. Many test new ways of diagnosing or monitoring cancers, for example through scans or laboratory testing. It is common for trials to incorporate a number of the above aims, and many lead to exciting changes in care and practice, to the benefit of New Zealand children.