SMPaeds2 will investigate blood cancers and solid tumours in children and young people, including in the brain, muscle and bone, which can be more difficult to access, diagnose and treat

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Professor Louis Chesler at the ICR. (Credit: The Institute of Cancer Research)

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

The Stratified Medicine Paediatrics 2 (SMPaeds2) research programme will be led by Professor Louis Chesler at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, alongside his co-leads, Professor Darren Hargrave at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust (GOSH) and Dr Isidro Cortes Ciriano at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI).

SMPaeds2 will investigate blood cancers and solid tumours in children and young people, including in the brain, muscle and bone, which can be more difficult to access, diagnose and treat.

Developing and studying new tests to match children to the best treatment
SMPaeds2 aims to develop and study new tests that will build upon the success of the first phase of the programme, Stratified Medicine Paediatrics (SMPaeds1), which established the UK’s first National Molecular Tumour profiling platform for relapsed childhood cancer. Molecular tumour profiling maps the unique changes in the DNA of a person’s tumour, giving doctors information to help match the patient to the best treatment or clinical trial for their individual cancer.

The advanced genetic tests and analyses that SMPaeds2 will develop will provide scientists with unprecedented insights into the biology of relapsed childhood cancers, aiding precision medicine today and unlocking the potential to develop new and better precision therapies in the future. There is limited advanced testing of children’s tissue biopsy and blood for relapsed cancers.

SMPaeds2 will work alongside the NHS to develop ‘liquid-based’ cancer tests that require little or no tissue, and instead work in blood and other body fluids, offering more information in less time. The hope is to be able to reduce or eliminate the need for invasive biopsies entirely.

Developing tests that could detect or predict relapse earlier
Diagnostic cancer tests developed by SMPaeds1 were implemented by NHS England for Standard of Care clinical use in 2020, representing a major success for young cancer patients. However, there is a continued need to diagnose children and young people with greater speed and precision.

Within five years, it is hoped that new tests developed by SMPaeds2 will help doctors to detect or even predict childhood cancer relapse earlier, as well as lead to the development of new precision medicines. 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.

Professor Louis Chesler, Professor of Paediatric Cancer Biology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Consultant in Paediatric Oncology at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, says:

“Through this programme, which brings together some of the UK’s leading experts, 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, and where it’s possible to identify these treatments through a simple blood test, rather than an invasive biopsy.

Source: Company Press Release