Gala Charity Dinner: Celebrity guests to remember Mosman toddler Sienna Hoffmann at Neuroblastoma fundraiser.
By PETA GARRETT
(Exclusive images by GRAHAM MONRO from gmphotographics)
At just two-years of age, Sienna Hoffmann was an expert on the whereabouts of Mosman’s frangipani trees.
“Whenever we went past a frangipani tree, Sienna would want to stop or get out of her pram and pick up two flowers - one for each hand,” says her mum Lucy Jones.
“We started to know where all the frangipani trees were in Mosman,” Lucy recalls.
Collecting these beautiful flowers was time out from the many hospital stays Sienna had from the age of nine months, when she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.
Neuroblastoma is an aggressive cancer that develops in nerve tissue in infants and young children, predominantly affecting the nerves that connect the spinal cord to the adrenal glands.
For nearly two years, Sienna endured high risk treatments including six rounds of chemotherapy, surgery, a stem cell transplant and radiotherapy.
Despite her extraordinary battle, this bubbly little two-year old who loved visiting the baby elephants at the zoo, her little wooden kitchen and dancing, lost her battle with the cancer in February 2010 at just two and half years of age.
Sienna’s love of frangipanis was the inspiration for the frangipani symbol for Neuroblastoma Australia (NBA), the charity that Lucy launched in 2010 in honour of her daughter.
Since then, Lucy and her team have worked tirelessly to raise funds for designated research projects at the Children’s Cancer Institute (CCI) and Cancer Council NSW into more effective treatments for neuroblastoma.
“Currently only half the children diagnosed with aggressive neuroblastoma get to grow up - this simply is not good enough and better treatments need to be found,” Lucy says.
“To do this, this complex disease has to be understood and potential targets identified which can kill the cancerous cells.”
“There are a number of promising research areas - from the introduction of immunotherapy, to the use of different combinations of drugs and the use of drugs that have not previously been used in childhood cancer,” Lucy says.
A recent breakthrough study funded by NBA was conducted by Dr Tao Liu and his team at Cancer Council (NSW). The study discovered that by blocking the gene known as MALAT1, it’s possible to reduce the spread of neuroblastoma cells.
The hope now is that new drugs can be created to inhibit MALAT1 activity and a clinical trial be undertaken.
Neuroblastoma Australia aims to raise over $100,000 next year at their fundraising event, Sienna’s Gala Dinner, to ensure such studies continue making headway into the successful treatment of this cancer.
“Funds raised on the night will help us discover new, more effective treatments as quickly as possible,” Professor Michelle Haber AM, Executive Director at the CCI says.
“The support of the community for Sienna’s Gala Dinner is critical to our research. Neuroblastoma remains the most deadly cancer for young children, and with dedicated research we believe we will be able to improve survivorship for all children”.
Early bird tickets and VIP tables are now available for Sienna’s Gala Dinner, which takes place on Friday 1st March 2019 at MacLaurin Hall at the University of Sydney.
The night features Mosman locals, Channel 7 sports presenter Mark Beretta as MC and opera singer Amelia Farrugia.
Purchase your tickets at https://www.neuroblastoma.org.au/events/siennasgaladinner/