The Hunter Children’s Research Foundation (HCRF) raises funds for important research into children’s terminal and debilitating illnesses. Formed in 1996, the Foundation is authorised to fundraise by HMRI and is also affiliated with HNEkidshealth – Children, Young People and Families.

Money raised by HCRF stays in the Hunter to fund children’s research projects in areas like asthma, cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes and sleep disorders – illnesses that can affect any family at any time.

HCRF provides funds for essential research equipment, to employ research support staff and fund research grants for new and ongoing research. It is overseen by an independent committee, the Children Young People & Families Research Executive, who guides the assessment and allocation of funding for children’s research, in collaboration with HMRI.

The ReaCH 200 is a group of local businesses and individuals who to contribute to children’s research through HCRF. HCRF also holds its own fundraising events, and receives proceeds from various charity functions, raffles and sponsorships.

In 2011, Australian fashion icon Jennifer Hawkins and retired paediatrician (turned artist) Dr Cliff Hosking were announced as dual Patrons of HCRF. In 2015, Michael and Sue Hagan, Matt Hall and Anna Weatherup were announced as HCRF Ambassadors to help spread the word and why it is so important to support children’s medical research.

Celebrating its 20th year of fundraising, the Hunter Children’s Research Foundation (HCRF) recently provided funding for a further three project grants to improve children's health.

Dr Adam Collison will investigate the role of microbiome development in the early origins of asthma. He says there is emerging evidence that bacteria in the infant’s gut can impact immune function and contribute to the immune responses seen in asthma. In this study, Dr Collison will investigate if there are differences in the types of bacteria and the timing of colonisation through the first year of life.

Dr Komal Vora will undertake a study in a complex genetic disorder known as Prader-Willi Syndrome that affects development and growth of the child, manifesting as cognitive disability, obesity, short stature and a chronic feeling of hunger. There is conflicting evidence linking secondary thyroid disease to Prader-Willi Syndrome, and the decision whether or not to treat patients with thyroxine (a hormone replacement therapy) is left to the clinician.

Dr Vora’s team aims to develop a minimally-invasive diagnostic test to aid with clinical diagnosis and treatment strategy for secondary hypothyroidism in children with PWS. The researchers hypothesise that serum miRNAs may represent a novel class of biomarker.

Dr Scott Nightingale aims to develop an evidence-based internet intervention to improve symptoms, functioning and health-related quality of life in children with functional abdominal pain.

Functional abdominal pain is one of the most frequently occurring pain syndromes in childhood, impacting school attendance, health-care needs and quality of life. Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy, or CBT, is one of a few effective therapies.

“CBT has traditionally involved one-on-one meetings between the patient and their parent/carer and a psychologist or counsellor trained in CBT methods, which can be costly and difficult to access, particularly as multiple sessions are required,” Dr Nightingale said.

He believes an internet-based intervention may be particularly suited for younger populations who are well accustomed to electronic forms of communication, with the advantage of consistency, cost-efficiency and easy accessibility.

The Awards brought the total amount of HCRF research funding since 1996 to over $1.3 million. Projects have included everything from asthma to ear infections, epilepsy and diabetes.

In February 2018, HCRF awarded their first fellowship to Dr Megan Jensen. Funding for the three year Peggy Lang Early Career Researcher Fellowship funding came from the late Peggy Lang, who was unmarried and didn’t have children of her own but wanted to support paediatric research. Dr Jensen is a respiratory researcher focussed on using nutrition to improve airway function in children.

This brings the total amount of HCRF research funding since 1996 to over $1.465m and together with the funds from the Peggy Lang Fellowship bequest a total of $2m has now been raised.  A wonderful milestone for HCRF.

Download Biennial Research Report 2015 & 2016 from the Children, Young People and Families Research Executive

Support or connect with the Hunter Children’s Research Foundation:

Funded Research

2017

A randomised controlled trial to assess the impact of a uniform intervention on girl’s physical activity at school.
Project Grant
Description:

Children’s participation in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day is essential for their healthy growth and development[ and the prevention of future chronic disease. Despite this, international research indicates that many school-aged children, in particularly girls, are not sufficiently active. It is estimated that girls are between 17-19% less active than boys with differences beginning from as young as 8 years. Improving physical activity during childhood, particularly among girls, has been identified as a public health priority.

more
Left atrium volume and deformation in preterm infants
Project Grant
Researchers:
Description:

The left atrium (LA) is one of the four chambers of the heart. Its primary roles are to act as a holding chamber for blood returning from the lungs and to act as a pump to transport blood to the left ventricle of the heart, after which the blood flows to the body.

more
Re-purposing PARP inhibitors to treat childhood leukaemias
Project Grant
Description:

Cancer is the most common cause of childhood disease-related deaths, with leukaemia the most common childhood cancer in Australia. The two most common forms of leukaemia in children are acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). Whilst remission is achievable in over 95% of ALL cases, 1/3 of patients will relapse within 5 to 10 years, and these children will not be long-term survivors. AML accounts for 20% of all childhood leukaemias, and the outlook for children diagnosed with AML is much worse, with only approximately half of children surviving for 5 years post-diagnosis.

more

2016

Development and pilot study of an evidence-based internet intervention to improve symptoms, functioning and health-related quality of life in children with functional abdominal pain
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Scott Nightingale, Dr Milena Heinsch, Associate Professor Maria Kangas (Macquarie University), Professor Mike Jones (Macquarie University)

Description:

Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy, or CBT, is one of the few effective therapies for children with functional abdominal pain. But CBT sessions can be costly and difficult to access, particularly as multiple sessions are required.

more
Prader-Willi Syndrome: assessment of central hypothyroidism using novel biomarkers (serum micro-RNA)
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Komal Vora, A/Professor Patricia Crock, Dr Vicki Maltby

Description:

HCRF has funded Dr Komal Vora’s study into Prader-Willi Syndrome – a complex genetic disorder that affects development and growth of the child, manifesting as cognitive disability, obesity, short stature and a chronic feeling of hunger.

more
The role of microbiome development in the early origins of asthma in a high risk population
Project Grant
Description:

Children born to mothers with asthma are three times more likely to develop asthma themselves than those with asthmatic fathers, which suggests that a risk factor extends beyond genetics. There is emerging evidence that bacteria in the infant’s gut can impact immune function and contribute to the types of immune responses that are seen in asthma.

more

2015

Do we need to intervene in preterm infants with a patent ductus arteriosus?
Project Grant
Researchers:
Description:

Preterm birth continues to be a major health problem throughout the world. 

more

2014

A novel diagnostic blood test for peanut allergy
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Adam Collison, Dr Rani Bhatia

Description:

While symptoms of food allergy range from mild to severe, patients with peanut allergy are at the highest risk of a potentially life threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis affecting up to half of all individuals who are allergic to peanut. 

more

2013

The DADEE (Dads And Daughters Enjoying Exercise) study
Project Grant
Researchers:
Description:

Engaging fathers to improve physical activity levels and social-emotional well-being in their daughters

more
Evaluation of a multi-component intervention to reduce screen-time in adolescents: The ‘Stand Up for Healthy Minds’ study
Project Grant
Description:

Children’s screen-time is high. The time that young people spend sedentary, especially the time they spend alone watching television and using computers, is a major public health issue.

more
High-flow Nasal-prong Warm Humidified Oxygen Pilot Randomised Control Trial for infants aged ≤ 24 months with moderate bronchiolitis
Project Grant
Description:

Bronchiolitis is a very common life-threatening virus infection of the terminal airways affecting infants only.

more
Antipituitary Autoantibodies and Pituitary Target Autoantigens
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Vicki Maltby, Associate Professor Patricia Crock, Professor Rodney Scott

Description:

The thyroid gland is responsible for the secretion of hormones involved in growth, sleep patterns, and cognitive development.

more
A life course perspective on the identification of risk factors for low birth weight
Project Grant
Researchers:
Description:

This project will identify maternal health factors (demographic, health bejaviour, physical and mental health, perceived stress and life events) that are risk factors for low birth weight.

more
The prediction of egg allergy severity in children by non-invasive exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) measurement confirmed with food challenge
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Adam Collison, Dr Rani Bhatia

Description:

Six to eight percent of children suffer from clinically relevant food allergy and the prevalence is increasing worldwide(1-3).

more

2012

HCRF Travel Award 2012
Travel Grant
Researchers:
A double blind cross over trial in young insulin pump users comparing their glucose control when their insulin pump settings have been set from continuous glucose sensing data interpreted by a new computer program (PumpTune), to when a doctor reviews the
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Donald Anderson, Dr Bruce King, Hphelan, Associate Professor P Cook, Mneylan, Carmel Smart
 

2011

HCRF Education Prize
Project Grant
Researchers:

Rebecca Dyson

HCRF Education Prize
Project Grant
Researchers:
Elucidating the mechanisms of steroid-resistant asthma.
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Jay Horvat, Professor Phil Hansbro
 

A double blind cross over trial in young insulin pump users comparing their glucose control when their insulin pump settings have been set from continuous glucose sensing data interpreted by a new computer program (PumpTune), to when a doctor reviews the
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Donald Anderson, Dr Bruce King, Associate Professor Pcook, Mneylan, Carmel Smart
 

Establishment of Fat1 cadherin as biomarker and unique target for anti-cancer therapy in paediatric acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Rick Thorne, Charles de Bock, Lisa Lincz

The Growing into Asthma Study: Wheezing prevalance and markers of airways inflammation in preschoolers born to mothers in asthma exacerbations in pregnancy
Project Grant
Researchers:

Professor Joerg MattesProfessor Peter Gibson, Professor M.Hensley, Associate Professor B.Whitehead, Dr Vanessa Murphy

2010

FamilyFIT: an innovative approach to increasing physical activity for the whole family
Project Grant
Researchers:
How do high protein and/or high fat meals affect postprandial glycaemic control in children and adolescents using intensive insulin therapy?
Project Grant
Researchers:

Professor Clare Collins, Carmel Smart, Bruce King, Patrick McElduff 

Molecular markers of reversible airway obstruction in early life and correlation with clinical wheezing patterns
Project Grant
Researchers:

Associate Professor Joerg Mattes, Paul Foster, Bruce Whitehead, Ana Pereira de Siqueira 

2009

Validation of energy intake and expenditure in young children using Food Frequency Questionnaires, doubly-labelled water and accelerometers
Project Grant
Researchers:
Preterm Infant Carbon Monoxide Study (PICOS)
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Ian Wright
 

HCRF Meningococcal Research
Project Grant
Researchers:

Professor Caroline Blackwell
 

2008

In children with type 1 Diabetes on intensive insulin therapy, can improving carbohydrate knowledge and targeted nutrition education strategies improve diabetes management?
Project Grant
Genome wide SNP association study of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
Project Grant

2007

Development of pituitary autoantibody assays
Project Grant
Researchers:

Professor Patricia Crock
 

The effects of passive smoking on children with asthma
Project Grant
Researchers:

Professor Peter Gibson, Dr BJ Whitehead, Professor M Hensley
 

2006

A web-based fathers' network and health information service for first-time fathers"
Project Grant
Researchers:

Mr Richard Fletcher, Dr DR Keatinge
 

Validating tools to assess children's' food intake to develop healthy eating programs
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Clare Collins, Dr J Warren
 

Characterisation of the sex-specific differences in preterm neonatal cardiovascular adaption
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Ian Wright, Dr VL Clifton
 

2005

Objective measures of empathy: clinical application to aggressive children and adolescents
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Mark Chorlton, Dr Frini Karayanidis, Prof K Nunn
 

Identification of target autoantigens in pituitary autoimmunity
Project Grant
Researchers:

Professor Patricia Crock
 

Airway inflammation in childhood asthma
Project Grant
Researchers:

Professor Peter Gibson, Dr B Whitehead, Professor M Hensley
 

Assessment of Alloiococcus Otitis for its potential as a pathogen in otitis media
Project Grant
Researchers:

Associate Professor John Stuart, Professor C Blackwell

Vitamin B12 and Gene interactions in autism
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Michelle Adams, Dr MD Lucock,  Associate Professor J Stuart
 

2004

Facial identify and facial expression processing in autism
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Frini Karayanidis, Professor P Michie, Professor K Nunn, Mr T Passfield, Mr P Johnston
 

Continuing the search for the elusive causes of autism
Project Grant
Researchers:

Professor Gillian Turner, Dr Lynn Banna
 

Evaluation of family partnerships model training and its possible impact on child and family health nurses' practice and client care
Project Grant
Researchers:

Professor Diana Keatinge, Dr C Fowler
 

Gene regulation by Omega-3 fatty acids controls preterm labour
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Richard Nicholson, Dr BR King
 

2003

The effects of cigarette smoke on immune and inflammatory responses in aboriginal and non-aboriginal children with middle ear infections
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr John Stuart, Professor C Blackwell
 

Prediction of birth by Prostaglandin metabolite labels in urine.
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Tamas Zaka, Dr IMR Wright
 

A randomised control trial comparing diabetic children provided with fortnightly phone support to c control group receiving regular support.
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr G Anderson, Sr E Nunn
 

Quantitive EEG analysis of the maturational changes associated with childhood and juvenile absence epilepsy.
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Roger Smith, Dr Mick Hunter
 

2002

The genetic origins of childhood cancer
Project Grant
Acting on overweight and obesity in Hunter children
Project Grant
Peripheral vascular tone in the neonatal period; the influence of pre-eclampsia
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Ian Wright, Professor W Giles
 

Respiratory outcomes in the first three years after neonatal respiratory support: comparison of conventional management versus columbia style respiratory support
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Christopher Wake, Dr IMR Wright

The prevalence and quality of learning support plans for children with disabilities receiving integration funding in mainstream Hunter Valley Primary Schools
Project Grant
Researchers:

Ms A Prigg, Dr G Vimpani
 

Sleep related breathing disorders in children with cleft palate
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Bruce Whitehead, Dr JM Hilton
 

Development of a Children's memory questionnaire
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Karen Drysdale, Mr W Levick
 

Rehabilitation of attention and executive functions deficits in children.
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Karen Drysdale, Mr W Levick
 

2000

Nutritional status of children undergoing chemotherapy; a cross sectional review
Project Grant
Development and environmental risk factors for respiratory infections in aboriginal and non-aboriginal children
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Maree Gleeson
 

Preventing infant exposure to tobacco smoke: evaluation of an early childhood intervention
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr John Wiggers, Ms R Considine
 

To characterise the effect of rhinoviral infection in children ages 7-16 years with an acute exacerbation of asthma requiring admission to hospital
Project Grant
Researchers:

1998

Characterisation of a Pituitary Target Autoantigen
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Damien D'wyer, Trish Crock and Roger Smith