Ground-breaking funding to develop UK’s new programme for young cancer patients
Children with Cancer UK, the leading national charity dedicated to research into cancer in children and young people, is providing £1.5m funding to advance Precision Medicine in the UK, and make this field of treatment a reality for children and young adults diagnosed with cancer.
Not generally available on the NHS, the ambition is to get Precision Medicine off the ground in the UK so it can be adopted nationally, available for every young cancer patient who would otherwise face less effective, more toxic treatment. This includes:
- Improved treatments for high-risk cancers with extremely poor survival rates
- The reduction of the long-term adverse impact of aggressive treatments
- Better understanding of the causes of cancer in children and young people
- The integration of advanced genetic technologies directly into clinical practice
Precision Medicine is an emerging approach to disease treatment and prevention and takes into account individual variations in genes, environment and lifestyle. Precision therapies target specific changes in individual patients’ tumour DNA, allowing for more effective treatments while reducing toxic side effects. It has huge potential to improve cure rates and reduce the burden of toxicity on young cancer patients through better targeted chemotherapy, introducing advances in immunotherapy and using other evolving technologies.
While some clinicians and institutions are starting to systematically apply this treatment approach to young cancer patients in parts of the USA and Europe with some success, until now efforts in the UK have been somewhat ad hoc – largely due to lack of development funding in the NHS.
To help drive forward the implementation of Precision Medicine for young cancer patients in the UK, Children with Cancer UK is providing £1.5m to fund the initial phase of a programme for rapid DNA sequencing for every UK child diagnosed with a solid tumour.
The initiative will significantly help move the latest and best medical science into clinical practice. Over time, with feedback from clinical trials and using expert databases, clinicians will be able to personalise treatment plans to maximise potential for cure and minimise adverse long-term toxic side-effects from the treatments.
This work is being led by Professor Louis Chesler at The Institute of Cancer Research in London, on behalf of a large multi-centre consortium. The support will help fund the start of a national infrastructure for rapid sequencing of tumour DNA from young cancer patients, including:
- A tissue referral and diagnostics pathway, to allow NHS pathologists to submit tissue to a central genomics hub, linked to clinical trials research and get results within two weeks
- A dedicated paediatric genomics facility, to support clinical implementation of DNA sequencing for cancer patients
- A national clinical-genomic database and accessible bio-informatics team, to record and interpret the data, and link it to the national patient registry and other databases
- An expert multidisciplinary molecular tumour board, to provide a national consent, ethics and clinical reporting framework and drive Precision Medicine forward in the UK
The genomic analysis work will be carried out in the UK. The bioinformatic analysis will also involve international colleagues.
Cliff O’Gorman, Chief Executive of Children with Cancer UK, said:
Our ambition is that all children, teenagers and young adults diagnosed with cancer in the UK have access to Precision Medicine through the NHS within the framework of clinical trials. This ground-breaking funding will help develop the first programme for Precision Medicine for young cancer patients in the UK, already started in parts of the USA and Europe.
Initiative Leader, Professor Louis Chesler of The Institute of Cancer Research, said:
Integration of modern technologies to cancer treatment is very important because it maximises the chance of developing a new generation of ‘targeted’ cancer drugs. It is incredibly exciting and their application to children’s cancers could be groundbreaking, but only if the drugs are properly applied to patients with very precise knowledge about the unique changes in genes, proteins and cancer cells that occur in each child’s tumour.
This funding will help us move towards a more comprehensive and structured approach to genetic testing to match children with cancer to specific targeted treatments, which could be an incredibly important step towards increasing survival and reducing the side-effects of treatment.
At the same time as providing funding to pump-prime the implementation of DNA sequencing, Children with Cancer UK has developed a five-point plan to ensure that all children diagnosed with cancer in the UK have access to Precision Medicine. (See Annex 1)
Children with Cancer UK is also organising the Childhood Cancer 2017 conference to be held on the 18th and 19th September in Newcastle. This will discuss the latest translational medicine used in the treatment of cancer in children and young people.