Together we will beat cancer


Oscar Sawyer

We get many letters here at Cancer Research UK but it’s not every day that an eight-year old writes us a letter suggesting a clever way we might go about tackling cancer.

Oscar Sawyer wrote us this letter a few months ago with a very interesting idea. He suggested taking DNA from slow growing cells and putting it in a person with cancer, so that the cancer cells would grow more slowly, giving more time for the cell’s DNA checkers to spot the mistakes and help fix the cancer cells.

Oscar letter 1

Original letter from Oscar: Dear Cancer Research, My name is Oscar and I am 8 years old and I go to Saltsord Primary School. I am interested in biology. I have an idea in how to beat cancer. Take some D.N.A from an animal that has slow dividing cells and put it into a human with cancer then these cells will slow down so it can be cured. I will draw a picture for you. Picture 1: The cancerus cell is going to clone Picture 2: The cancerus cell has divided Picture 3: The cancerus cell is growing 1 mm per hour. This is slower than normal so the D.N.A. checkers can check the D.N.A. for the errors easier to correct them. From Oscar Sawyer

We were so thrilled and surprised by Oscar’s letter that we responded with a letter of our own.

We explained that, while we can’t exactly use slow-growing cells to treat cancer, parts of Oscar’s ideas are already being used in existing treatments, like Herceptin, that target cancer cells and help slow the growth of cancer.

We also suggested that Oscar look into a molecule called P53. Oscar’s mum, Jo Chambers, told us Oscar raced off to the library to learn more. What did he find out? We wanted to know – so we asked him.

Here’s what he told us:

“Amy at Cancer Research UK asked me to find out about P53 which is a gene. It is called the guardian of the genome.

“P53 heals cells stopping cancer by stopping cell growth and correcting cell deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or killing the cell if the damage is really bad.

“If the P53 is faulty then that means it can’t heal the cell and this happens in 50 out of 100 cancers but if you are lucky your P53 will still be working.

“Plus I’ve read about viruses. They might cure cancer by acting like a normal virus but when they spot the cancer they infect the cancer cells and poison them.”

Looks like Oscar is becoming a promising young cancer researcher.

We think it’s fantastic that the next generation is taking an interest in cancer research and it’s encouraging to think people like Oscar might become the scientists of the future.

We can’t wait to hear what other ideas Oscar comes up with next.


David Parton-Ginno July 18, 2015

The wonders of a child’s mind will never cease to amaze. Science needs people like Oscar and we need schools to encourage young enquiring children like him to take a real interest in the subject.
Here’s a crazy idea, how about a school science competition entitled “how do we beat cancer” the winners gets to spend the day with real scientists and free science goodies for the school – you’d be amazed at what fresh prospective you’d have on cancer treatment.

Jane McManus July 17, 2015

Give this young lad a scholarship through university (when he gets there!). This is a promising step and I know people from my days in oncology who could not even hypothesize such ideas. A great future mind and hopefully a great future scientist. We need to nurture such people! Well done Oscar!

catherine mcallister April 9, 2015

thier is someone somewhere out there oscar who WILL find a cure that someone could be you i have a gut instinct that the cure might be something so simple that the world has it already and cant see it you be all you can be oscar and keep searching gos bless

Susan Harr April 9, 2015

Wow. Young genius there or what? I struggle to understand these things and I’m a university graduate and postgrad – tho not in science. Well done young man. keep up your interest.

Mrs WENDY jayne hammond April 9, 2015

I think young Oscar could well turn out to be quite a little genius I rate his question and answer to be 100/100

Christopher Richards April 9, 2015

what a wonderful young man. Scientist in the making. Well done young man.

Elizabeth April 9, 2015

Oscar is a very intelligent boy and shows an interest in research. Long may his interest continue.

Steve April 9, 2015

What an amazing young man….never, never give up on your ideas!!

Amanda April 9, 2015

Amazing that a child so young could be so insightful and inventive. If he’s thinking like this now what will he be like when he’s an adult. He’s one to watch!!

Nina Meredith April 9, 2015

It gives me great hope for the future that there are children as young as Oscar helping to find a cure. Keep up the good work!

Helen Blackburn April 9, 2015

I was delighted to read this article. Hopefully Oscar’s love of science and innovative ways of thinking will be nurtured as he grows up.

niall March 31, 2015

What amazing young lad. He will be a good one in the future and bright my grandma, mother in law , best freaind died and my sister is fighting at the moment x

David Butler March 26, 2015

Clearly a young man to keep an eye on. If he is already thinking along the same lines as experts at 8, what will he think of in the future.

Alexandra Rose March 24, 2015

Simply wonderful that such a young boy not only understands enough biology, but to expand his ideas and explain them so clearly, and then go on to do more research on his own. His parents and teacher must be very proud of him and be excellent role models for him. Three cheers for the Oscars of this world, and three more cheers for the response to Oscar from CRUK.

Gaelle March 24, 2015

amazing for an 8 year-old! Keep going Oscar ! one day we will beat Cancer thanks to people like you!

C.Hoggarth March 24, 2015

Amazing young man !
I think you should invite him to the labs !