£5.5 million to improve treatment for children and young people whose cancer has returned – Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK and Children with Cancer UK will co-fund a £5.5 million research programme to advance precision medicine for children and young people whose cancer has returned or whose treatment has stopped working.  

The Stratified Medicine Paediatrics 2 (SMPaeds2) programme is for children and young people with blood cancers and solid tumours, including in the brain, muscle and bone, which can be more difficult to access, diagnose and treat.  

This is the second phase of the SMPaeds programme, pushing forward with a precision medicine approach that considers the specific genetic changes in each individual cancer case. With a better understanding of what makes each cancer unique, we can develop more targeted treatments, which are more likely to be effective and less likely to cause long-term side effects. 

We are pushing the frontiers of treatment for childhood cancers – bringing us closer to a reality where every child with cancer receives treatment that is tailored to the unique biology of their cancer,” said Chesler.

SMPaeds2 aims to develop advanced genetic tests to diagnose, monitor and guide treatment decisions for children and young people whose cancer has returned. It builds on SMPaeds1, which

SMPaeds2 will work alongside the NHS to develop less invasive cancer tests that work on small samples of blood and other body fluids that have the potential to detect cancer faster and in more detail than ever before. Today, genetic tests usually require doctors to take tissue directly from tumours. 

“The data generated by SMPaeds2 will support the development of next-generation clinical trials, to help deliver more effective, targeted treatment,” said Jo Elvin, chief executive of Children with Cancer UK. “Our ambition is that all children diagnosed with cancer in the UK have access to precision medicine and this pioneering research will play a crucial role in making that a reality for young cancer patients.” 

Within five years, it is hoped that new tests developed by SMPaeds2 will help doctors to detect or even predict childhood cancer relapse earlier. It could also allow them to monitor how a patient is responding to treatment in real time, meaning they could change or adapt the individual treatment approach if a treatment isn’t working. 

“Beyond the more immediate impact, this collaborative programme could also unveil crucial insights into the biology of childhood cancers and highlight areas for future scientific discovery, to help drive the development of new and more effective treatments,” added Chesler. 

“Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults and presents a unique set of challenges that we must overcome,” said Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive. “We are delighted to co-fund these pioneering programmes with our partners, Children with Cancer UK. By working together, we are determined to overcome the challenges and ultimately help more children and young people survive cancer with a better quality of life.” 

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