Research Stories – Childhood cancer and the immune system

On Friday 25th September, Children with Cancer UK grant-holders Dr David Gilham and Dr Ian Hampson welcomed us to the University of Manchester to tell us about their work. With funding from Children with Cancer UK, David and Ian are leading two quite different projects. What the projects have in common is that they are both focused on the immune system. David is looking at how the power of the immune system can be harnessed to cure the childhood cancer neuroblastoma. Ian is looking at the role of the immune system in the actual causation of childhood leukaemia.

Can childhood leukaemia be caused by exposure to infection?

Leukaemia is the most common of the childhood cancers. As with most other childhood cancers, we don’t really understand what causes it. A large body of research has taken place around the role of infection in the development of childhood cancer. Some of this research points towards a protective role of early exposure to childhood infections. Other research suggests that leukaemia may actually be caused by an abnormal response to an infection. No specific infection has so far been identified and Ian is using new and unique methodology to try to resolve this debate once and for all. If he is successful in pinpointing a causal infection, this could have important implications for prevention as well as having a role in diagnosis and disease management.
I had an amazing day understanding the research into cancer and how, as we look forward, there will hopefully be alternative cures other than chemotherapy. The doctors/researchers were absolutely engaging and inspiring – a lifetime spent looking for better alternatives. I am so pleased that the money raised by Coral goes to such important research. Joanne Moran, NW Regional Director, Coral
  Read more: Infections and development of childhood luekaemia

Can we harness the power of the immune system to cure childhood cancer?

Neuroblastoma is one of the most common solid tumours to occur in children, predominantly affecting children under the age of five years. We heard first-hand from Dr Guy Makin, a Paediatric Oncologist at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, of the difficulties inherent in treating young patients. Around 40 per cent of them have a high-risk form that is incurable using conventional treatments (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery). Immunotherapy approaches, turning the power of the immune system against the tumour, have already shown considerable promise in the treatment of neuroblastoma. Dave and colleagues are working on techniques that should improve the effectiveness of current immunotherapy techniques by enhancing the tumour-killing ability of the modified immune cells. The aim is to improve survival in young patients with neuroblastoma.

Thank you Coral!

These two projects in Manchester, in common with our other projects around the UK, are funded entirely through voluntary donations. To date, the amazing team at Coral have raised more than £1.3 million, massively increasing our ability to fund new research. We are so grateful to them for their incredible fundraising efforts. Thank you Coral!
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