Telethon Funding to Protect the Hearing of Children with Cancer

Researchers at Ear Science Institute Australia have been awarded a Channel 7 Telethon Trust grant to support the discovery of new drugs to protect the hearing of children with cancer.

Over 250,000 children each year worldwide are diagnosed with cancer. Most of these are treated with platinum-based chemotherapy drugs, which permanently affect the hearing of up to half of patients. Currently, there are no clinically indicated drugs to prevent chemotherapy-induced hearing loss in children without compromising cancer treatment. With the support of Telethon, Ear Science researchers can now accelerate the discovery of new medicines and potentially help tens of thousands of children with cancer each year worldwide.

This work will be led by Associate Professor Hani Al-Salami, head of the Hearing Therapeutics Department at Ear Science, collaborating with Dr Daniel Brown and Dr Armin Mooranian at Curtin University.

The research will focus on perfecting a nano-gel administered simultaneously with the chemotherapy. Over the last six years, the team has worked on developing nano-gel technology that has provided short-term protection. With this funding, the nano-gel will be modified so that its release can be precisely controlled with the aim of providing long-term protection from the damage the chemotherapy drugs have on the delicate structures and cells in the inner ear.

Hearing loss in children being treated with cancer can have significant consequences on the child’s well-being, their parents and family, and our community.

“Suffering from cancer is debilitating, and when you combine that with loss of hearing, it makes life more difficult for our children,” said Associate Professor Hani Al-Salami.

Associate Professor Al-Salami continues, “Our research has shown that hearing loss in children can result in social isolation, poor academic performance, and mental health illness. Hence, our drive is to advance scientific knowledge in this area, invent new safe, robust therapies, and make a difference.”

“This grant is important to drive forward medical research. We are starting to see some of the positive results being realised,” said Professor Marcus Atlas, Founding Director & Surgeon/Scientist at Ear Science Institute Australia and leader of the research team.