Research areas

Children’s Health Queensland has a number of major multidisciplinary research programs, including:

Oncology

The Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital Oncology Services Group is an active member of national and international collaborative research groups and partners with pharmaceutical companies to conduct clinical trials for childhood cancer. The team is involved in more than 50 clinical trials for conditions such as brain tumours, leukaemia, lymphoma, sarcoma and solid tumours, as well as in haemophilia and other severe haematology disorders.

The Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital Oncology Department also has an active translational laboratory research program. This research has two main areas of activity: the Queensland Children’s Tumour Bank, housed in the CCHR and the Childhood Leukaemia Research Laboratory, located at the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute within the Translational Research Institute.

The Tumour Bank collaborates widely with local, national and international research groups covering the full spectrum of childhood cancers. Dr Andrew Moore’s leukaemia research focuses on acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) to understand the causes of resistance to therapy and relapse and aims to discover new therapeutic approaches.
Haematology research studies include an evaluation of the efficacy of a parenting program to improve adherence to the prophylactic treatment in children with haemophilia, which is a joint project with the Department of Psychology, The University of Queensland (UQ). Other studies include the feasibility, efficacy and acceptability of using telehealth to provide multi- disciplinary assessment and advice for children with inherited bleeding disorders. This is a joint project with the Centre of Online Health, UQ.

Perinatal and infant mental health

The Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health conducts research and evaluation activities that support the following strategic directions for perinatal and infant mental health in Queensland:

  • Service development and implementation
  • Mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention
  • Workforce development
  • Advocacy and policy development

Current clinical trials and research studies

Paediatric Critical Care Research Group

The Paediatric Critical Care Research Group (PCCRG) is a collaboration of researchers in the field of paediatric critical care medicine based in the Division of Critical Care, Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.

The PCCRG has an established strong research background with the highest number of peer-reviewed studies published in the field of paediatric critical care in Australia. It also has a strong track record with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Current PCCRG research includes respiratory support in intensive care and anaesthesia, cardiopulmonary interaction, extra corporeal life support systems, follow-up of neurodevelopment post-PICU, sedation and delirium, genomics, severe infections, and traumatic brain injuries. The PCCRG consists of 30 active research members. It employs six research nurses and two research assistants, and has 10 associated children’s hospitals or paediatric departments’ research staff. There are currently seven Higher Research Degree students in the group.

Current clinical trials and research studies

Infectious diseases

The Infection Management Service is actively engaged in multiple areas of clinical and epidemiological research, collaborating widely with national organisations in surveillance, across several states in other paediatric facilities. Infectious disease research projects include the early diagnosis of congenital cytomegalovirus, improving bacterial identification in septic arthritis, the epidemiology of fungal infection in immune-compromised children and studies into improving the management of the febrile child with cancer.

In addition, the service has undertaken PAEDS, a national, multi-site hospital-based active surveillance project for identifying and investigating severe childhood conditions of public health importance, which are difficult to adequately capture through existing mechanisms.

Collaborations continue with the Queensland Paediatric Infectious Disease Laboratory, a Children’s Health Queensland/UQ research unit, supported by the Children’s Hospital Foundation. The team conducted  high-quality applied laboratory research aimed at developing and implementing new diagnostic tests for the rapid detection of existing and newly emerging infectious diseases.

Significant work includes the ORChID study, following upper airway and stool microbiology of children from birth to two years, implementation of systemic adenovirus testing and the detection of an outbreak of parechovirus in Queensland children. Queensland Paediatric Infectious Disease is also working with QIMR Berghofer researchers as part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Medicines for Malaria Venture, to develop tests for use in clinical trials for treatments for this disease, responsible for 5 per cent of global childhood deaths.

Child protection and forensic medical services

The Child Protection and Forensic Medical Service is actively developing linkages with research institutes in nursing, social work and forensic medicine. The service leads education and training in the area of child protection. Focus areas include best practice and support for children in out-of-home care and best practice in management of sexual assault for children and young people.

Cardiology and cardiac surgery

The strategic focus of research for the Queensland Paediatric Cardiac Service is a strong collaboration between the medical and surgical divisions, highlighting the interdependency of skills required to achieve high-level clinical, educational and research outcomes for children.

The team has well-established links with national research projects in areas such as cardiomyopathy, pulmonary hypertension and fontan surgery, with international research collaborations established in the area of neurodevelopmental outcomes for this group of patients.

Burns and trauma

The Burns and Trauma Research program is aimed at establishing and developing an extensive network of research. This includes laboratory bench work, animal and clinical trials of new therapeutics and clinical tools and public health and injury-prevention initiatives. All research projects are aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of children with burns and other traumatic injuries.

The Burns Research Service has successfully established and completed eight clinical studies and a further eight are currently in progress. An additional five clinical studies will start shortly, three of which are randomised controlled trials. These trials include studies into new dressings, wound therapies, clinical wound and scar-assessment tools and interventions for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Some 16 studies using the Queensland Paediatric Burn Registry and/or the Paediatric Trauma Registry have also been published. In the laboratory, researchers established a burn-blister fluid bank to determine differences between patients who heal well, compared with those who heal with poor outcomes. The number of samples in the tissue bank of normal skin, scar skin and post-burn blister skin was expanded.

Palliative care

A key focus of current palliative care research relates to telehealth, communication, music therapy and bereavement support. The music therapy study investigated how it contributes to the wellbeing of children with life-limiting conditions by measuring their levels of pain within sessions.

Paediatric Emergency Research Unit

The Paediatric Emergency Research Unit (PERU) is a participating centre in the Paediatric Research in Emergency Departments International Collaborative (PREDICT) Research Network and supports large multi-centre projects, including randomised control trials.

The PERU team chairs the Research Advisory Group in Emergency to facilitate the successful implementation of research projects within the Emergency Department and other departments. Three major studies – Children’s Rules for Imaging the Cervical Spine, Convulsive Status Epilepticus Paediatric Trial and High Flow Nasal Cannula Management for Infants with Viral Bronchiolitis and Acute Hypoxic Respiratory Failure Trial are currently in progress.

Diabetes and endocrinology

Key research topics in this area include type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and the response to growth hormone treatments. Studies currently being undertaken include a natural history study in first-degree relatives at risk of developing T1DM, early determinants to the progression of T1DM in at-risk people, the role of gut microbiome in T1DM, the role of advanced glycosylation end-products in T1DM, a trial of intra-nasal insulin in preventing progression to T1DM, the role of parenting children with T1DM, insulin regimens for newly diagnosed children and adolescents and metabolomics and heart and blood vessel risk in teenagers with T1DM.

As hosts for the national growth-hormone database (OZGROW), Children’s Health Queensland researchers have been involved in analysing the efficacy of the Australian growth hormone program to assess areas for improvement.

Respiratory

The respiratory department has strong research alliances with the University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and the Menzies Institute for Health Research in Darwin. In addition, it participates in both national and international trials, often as the lead centre.

Respiratory research is underway on several projects including a randomised, controlled trial of adenotonsillectomies for mild/moderate obstructive sleep apnoea in young children, behavioural interventions for sleeping problems in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sleep problems in children with Down syndrome and defining risk factors for the initiation and progression of lung disease in infants with cystic fibrosis.

The Airway Infections, Inflammation and Cystic Fibrosis Research Group is focused on the assessment and evolution of early lung diseases and the development of evidence-based management, particularly in cystic fibrosis, acute viral bronchiolitis and ataxia telangiectasia.

Queensland Paediatric Rehabilitation Service

The Queensland Paediatric Rehabilitation Service has formed a major partnership with the Queensland Cerebral Palsy and Rehabilitation Research Centre. In addition, it partners with a number of Queensland-based universities, with current, active collaborations with research departments at the Menzies Health Institute Queensland, the School of Psychology, Griffith University and the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, The University of Queensland.

Current research studies include a systematic review of the psychometric properties of pain measures for children with cerebral palsy and a prospective, cohort study of the effects of gastrocnemius lengthening on triceps surae muscle mechanics and gait in children with cerebral palsy. Further research projects include an Australian Cerebral Palsy Biobank Study.

Cough, Asthma and Airways Research Group

The Cough, Asthma and Airways Research Group (CAARG), led by Professor Anne Chang, includes A/Prof Marchant, Dr McElrea, and eight other team members including four PhD scholars. The group holds many NHMRC research grants and a Centre of Research Excellence grant, in collaboration with others.

The major research undertaken aims to reduce the burden of chronic respiratory illness in children, with a particular focus on conditions commonly affecting Indigenous children. Respiratory disease is the second most common reason for the hospitalisation of Indigenous Australians – and they also have a high prevalence of chronic suppurative lung disease. We also know that it is potentially remediable if detected early and appropriate clinically-based interventions are undertaken.

We strive to make a positive difference in children’s lung health through clinical research studies that are ethical and meaningful, alongside clinical service and education. Through our studies, we also aim to disseminate evidence-based medicine and build the next generation of researchers who share our research philosophy.

Summary of research activities and achievements

We are at the forefront of providing evidence to underpin national and international guidelines. Examples of this include:

  • The implementation of a standardised clinical management pathway for children with chronic coughs significantly improved their outcome, irrespective of when it is implemented.
  • Once a week administration of azithromycin (for up to 24 months) decreased pulmonary exacerbations in Indigenous children with non-CF bronchiectasis.
  • The description of protracted bacterial bronchitis (PBB) as a diagnostic entity. PBB is now recognised in major international guidelines on chronic cough in children.

The Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS) Research Unit

The Child and Youth Mental Health Research Group aims to improve outcomes for children and adolescents with psychiatric disorders, and their families. We achieve this by identifying risk factors commonly associated with the development and persistence of childhood and adolescent mental health symptoms, while developing and evaluating new treatments and prevention programs to address these.

The group is led by the Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Professor Christel Middeldorp, who holds a joint appointment across Children’s Health Queensland’s Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS) and the University of Queensland. Her research focuses mainly on the role of genetic factors and other familial factors in the development and persistence of psychiatric
symptoms across the lifespan. Internationally renowned, she has recently been awarded the prestigious international scholar award from the American Academy for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The group is currently undertaking a number of research projects which aim to improve service access, delivery, and outcomes for infants, children, young people and families. Research in the CYMHS space draws inspiration from a strong partnership with its clinical teams, and by listening to the needs of children, young people, parents, clinicians, government bodies and industry partners. Research and evaluation are also strongly embedded into CYMHS work practices across all service areas.

Continuous and project-limited service evaluation is routine practice and guides the development, implementation and review of areas such as clinical interventions, models of care and service gaps.

For more information on the projects and the team, please visit the Child and Youth Mental Health Research Group website.

Centre for Clinical Trials in Rare Neurodevelopmental Disorders

The Centre for Clinical Trials in Rare Neurodevelopmental Disorders (CCTRND) supports research into evidence-based clinical trials for various rare neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood where current therapeutic options are limited. This includes supporting a program of research into the use of cannabinoid-based medicines in these disorders.

The centre is located in the Centre for Children’s Health Research (CCHR), South Brisbane, providing full access to the academic environment within the research building and close integration with clinical staff and families in the nearby Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.

Contact information
Clinical Research Manager (Neurodevelopmental Disorders)
Email: CHQ_RD@health.qld.gov.au
Phone:  07 3069 7405

Other research areas include:

  • Queensland Cerebral Palsy and Paediatric Research Centre
  • Genetic Health Queensland
  • Children’s Nutrition Research Centre
  • The University of Queensland Children’s Health Research Centre
  • Queensland University of Technology Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
  • The Centre for Children’s Burns and Trauma
  • The Paediatric Spine Research Group