Professor Peter Johnson representing Cancer Research UK
Clinical trials are vital – they’re how we know which treatments work, how best to use them, and what the side effects are. So running trials quickly and effectively, and sharing their results, is essential if we’re to continue our progress in beating cancer.
On Monday, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee – a group of MPs that scrutinises the Government’s science policies – held an evidence session with academic and charitable research funders, to examine issues around clinical trials.
Our chief clinician, Professor Peter Johnson, was invited to give our view on what needs to be done, alongside representatives from the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and Association of Medical Research Charities.
You can watch the entire session on the Government’s website here.
One Sunday evening in 2008, after giving her one-year-old daughter a bath, Ruth Hillman noticed Georgia’s tummy felt firmer than usual.
Alarm bells began to ring.
By Wednesday, after seeing several different doctors, Ruth and her husband Ben were told Georgia had a tumour. Further tests showed that it was a Wilms’ tumour – a form of kidney cancer – and Georgia needed intensive treatment.
Georgia’s story is ultimately a happy one – she’s now a healthy five-year-old, and recently started school. Her treatment – surgery and chemotherapy – means she’s among some 33,000 people alive in the UK today who beat cancer in childhood. Although progress in some cancer types has been slow, overall survival rates are now at an all-time high.
But could they be even higher? In the end, Georgia was diagnosed in time, but others aren’t so fortunate. And, as in adults, cancer treatments in children are generally less effective when the disease is spotted late.
They’re also often more intense. As a result, survivors can have long-term disabilities – and with more lives being saved, this has meant an ever-greater focus on how we manage cancers in the youngest members of society.
The problem is that cancers in children are rare, and their symptoms are hard to tell apart from a whole range of more common problems. The average GP will only ever see a single case in their entire career – if at all. And for parents, they may never suspect that an ache or a pain could be something more sinister than childhood’s day-to-day rough and tumble.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the issues surrounding spotting cancers in children, and what’s going on to try to improve things.
Today we’re pleased to reveal that the fund has given the green light to its first project, aimed at accelerating the development of a promising group of compounds called MPS1 inhibitors into effective new cancer drugs.
The £50 million fund has been developed to address the sobering reality that the process of turning promising investigational drugs into ‘real life’ treatments for cancer patients is very often unsuccessful. The fund, half of which is provided through our commercial company Cancer Research Technology (CRT), is central to our strategy to make sure that exciting drug discoveries don’t languish at the lab bench, but are given every chance to be transformed into future cancer cures.
Called the CRT Pioneer Fund, it’s being run by independent management firm Sixth Element Capital, who have spent the last few months selecting exciting drug discovery opportunities from around the country.
Read on to find out why work on MPS1 inhibitors by researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, piqued their interest and led to the first grant from the Pioneer Fund.
Lots of tobacco news this week. On Monday we learnt that smokefree legislation has been linked to a drop in emergency hospital admissions from asthma. Here’s our news story.
In parliament on Tuesday, the government confirmed that it’s taking a “careful look” at all the evidence coming out of the consultation on standardised packaging on tobacco products (news story). Let’s hope they make the right decision and give children one less reason to start smoking.
On Wednesday, we had a timely reminder of tobacco industry tactics. The Advertising Standards Agency ruled that a series of ads from Japan Tobacco International which made claims that cannot be substantiated had breached the UK advertising code. The Guardian has more info, and you can read our view of these tactics here.
A few weeks ago, Dr Antony Michalski, a Cancer Research UK-supported doctor from London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, came to our head office to give an engrossing talk about his experience of treating children with cancer.
It’s a fascinating and personal account of his years as a consultant, where he touches on the significant progress that’s been made, but also the huge challenges that remain to ensure as many children as possible survive, and go on to live productive lives:
In one way, the progress Dr Michalski talks about is astounding. The survival rate for children’s cancer has more than doubled since the 1960s and more children than ever are surviving their disease. Now almost three-quarters of children are cured, compared with around a quarter in the late 1960s.
But “we’re not even close to perfection” when it comes to treatment, he says. This is an issue we’ve written about before – the need to tackle long-term effects of treatment on those who survive. After all, a child who survives cancer has potentially decades of life ahead of them, and we need to make sure these are as happy, healthy and ‘normal’ as possible for them.
How can we do this? Dr Michalski says research is the answer, and we wholeheartedly agree. He’s a passionate advocate of laboratory research and the “great hope of molecular biology” in uncovering the answers we need to make treatment better.
Research is the driving force behind the improvements we’ve seen so far, and will undoubtedly be the driving force behind future advances.
We hope you are as inspired by Dr Michalski’s talk as we were. Please do share your thoughts and comments below.
JTI advert that appeared in several national newspapers this month
As we revealed last week, almost two thirds (65 per cent) of the public don’t trust the tobacco industry to make believable and independent arguments about how to reduce smoking rates.
This is particularly relevant at the moment. The public health community – over 190 health and welfare organisations, including Cancer Research UK – is calling for the government to introduce plain, standardised tobacco packaging to protect children from tobacco marketing.
But the tobacco industry – and its funded groups – continue to oppose the measure, despite clear evidence that standard packs make cigarettes less attractive to children.
As the campaign intensifies, with the appearance of a new series of national press ads, it’s worth looking at how the tobacco industry’s opposition has panned out so far, and how it’s built such a dire reputation.
Dan Jarvis with our Cancer Awareness Roadshow nurses
Dan Jarvis is the Member of Parliament for Barnsley Central and a Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport. Here he shares his story about why he’s running a Marathon for Cancer Research UK.
Three years ago, after a long battle, my first wife Caroline died of bowel cancer.
This Sunday, along with hundreds of others, I’ll be running the London Marathon to support Cancer Research UK.
Caroline was first diagnosed in 2006 and had an operation to remove the cancer. She was diagnosed again in 2007 and had a further operation, again carried out by the same brilliant surgeon, who effectively saved her life. But the cancer came back in the spring of 2008.
We always hoped for the best, but it was a dreadful time. Caroline herself was always incredibly positive about her ability to beat the disease. She was brave and graceful throughout.
But tragically she died in July 2010.
Her death led me to end my career in the Army, and spurred me to become an MP. Balancing being an MP with looking after small children is very difficult, but possible thanks to the fantastic support of family and friends, and now with my partner.