The Cancer Grand Challenge is funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute, with one of the latest challenges attempting to tackle the development of new therapies which could treat paediatric cancers. The £20 million grant will help to fund research and develop treatments for paediatric brain tumours and paediatric sarcomas, two areas which the team of researchers describe as requiring the most urgent attention.
Current treatments for children with cancer
Cancer is currently the leading cause of death for children around the world, and while there are treatments for children with solid tumours, in many cases progress has stalled, with some outlooks for paediatric cancer not improving in more than 30 years.
Although many paediatric cancers are rare, such as brain tumours, this rarity leads to difficulties when establishing new trials and treatment options. For example, investigations into the safety and tolerability of new drugs often involve such a small number of participants that it is difficult to develop new treatments. Despite some advances, standard treatments still rely upon cytotoxic agents and radiotherapy which can cause severe effects, toxicity, infertility and second malignancies.
Finding and developing new therapies for children
This challenge awarded funding to the NexTGen team, who have identified immunotherapy as a potential treatment method for paediatric sarcomas and brain tumours, with the team taking inspiration from successes with adult patients. For example, T-cell therapies within adult populations have led to great successes within immune-based therapies and targeted small molecule therapies.
However, research has found that solid tumours within children are very different to those found in adults and new approaches are needed to help children survive cancer. Over the next 5 years during the Cancer Grand Challenge, the team will focus on gaining a better understanding of molecular biology within paediatric solid tumours, which could help the scientists identify potential agents that are already used to kill cells within the immunosuppressive microenvironment.
Common symptoms of childhood brain tumours include:
A great opportunity for childhood cancer therapies
The Cancer Grand Challenge has the potential to make a real impact on the outcomes of childhood cancer patients, in areas where previous research has struggled due to sample patient numbers. The challenge will bring together clinical investigators, medicinal chemists, immunologists, and cancer biologists who will aim to discover, develop, and optimise potential novel therapies, with the launch of early phase clinical trials. Potential successful trials could improve survival rates for children diagnosed with cancer, whilst also removing the after-effects of potential toxicities experienced by cancer survivors.
The ongoing research by projects within the Grand Cancer Challenge will offer hope to many families, and this vital research could take us a step closer to understanding and finding treatments for childhood brain cancers. We believe that knowledge is power, which is why we are always fundraising to support vital research. To find out more about you can help our charity or to make a donation, please contact our dedicated team today.
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